Early Inspiration Sets Foundations for Careers in Photojournalism

John Wilson, chief photographer at SKL, working with reporter Heather Simonsen.

By Katelyn Umhotlz

For visual journalists, there’s often that one picture or person that inspired them to enter photojournalism. For Amanda Voisard, a contract photographer for the United Nations, that moment happened during a college tour.

“I was visiting Ohio University to check out the journalism school,” Voisard said. “In the lobby was the work of a former master's student, which was about the Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis and refugees that were coming out of there.”

She had been considering a writing career but she had a change of heart. She said she told her parents her future was in documentary photojournalism.

“My father was a sculptor, and my mother was an architect,” Voisard said. “Art is a big part of the family. [Photojournalism] was a natural outlet for a daughter of creative people — to use photography in addition to the pen.”

For Mannie Garcia, a freelance photographer based in Washongton, D.C., it wasn’t necessarily a single work that attracted him to visual journalism, but two photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson inspired him, Robert Capa motivated him. During school, he spent time studying their photography. 

Their work made Garcia more patient and appreciate when his big moment came. It happened when he was hired by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department on a military base in Germany. He was supposed to be paid to photograph an air show that was to take place on base. The payment fell through, but he stayed and took pictures anyway.

“On that day, it was one of the worst disasters in aviation history,” Garcia said. “I captured the instance of impact between the jets. I got pictures of those jets crashing into crowds of people.”

He was injured, but his pictures were shown across the globe.

John Wilson, staff photographer for KSL-TV, was inspired by both a person in his life and pictures. In college, Wilson took on an internship in Lexington, Kentucky for sports photography. The sports photographer there, Brooks J. Meriwether, helped him get his work on air.

“He taught me how to shoot, but he was leaving in a few weeks,” Wilson said. “He told me I could take over once he's gone and as an intern, that was the greatest thing ever to hear,” Wilson said. “He spent the first few weeks showing me the ropes, and I spent the rest of my internship shooting sports for that TV station.”

His next inspiration came from photographs. After he attended a Kentucky News Photographers Association seminar, the photos of Boyd Huppert stuck out to him. Huppert’s story was “Portraits of Compassion,” about a woman who painted portraits of fallen soldiers for their families. In that moment, he had a change of heart.

“From that point on, I progressively started doing more storytelling stuff on my own,” Wilson said. He started shooting more news and less sports and is now a chief photographer.