By Jim Colton
Internships. The very word strikes fear and apprehension into the hearts of the thousands of college students and grads who apply for them every year as they take their first steps on their chosen paths.
There are many misconceptions about internships and depending on the size of the newspaper and its internal structure, responsibilities and expectations will vary. But in most cases, the benefits of an internship will be what the intern themselves can make of it...within the confines of the organization.
Will there be days where the mundane is the required action of the day…where filing or captioning or the grunt work of producing a daily newspaper consumes you from dawn to dusk? Yes. It’s all part of the program. But more often than not, you will also find opportunities worth pursuing...stories or subject matter that spark your synapses.
So how does one go about chasing those stories? How can you best take advantage of your time and energy once you’ve landed that internship? To find the answers to these questions, Photo Journal had a conversation with and examined the work of Tampa Bay Times Super Intern Eve Edelheit.
Jim Colton: Please tell our readers a little about Eve Edelheit. Your early years, your education and how you became interested in photography. And please add one thing that no one knows about you, that you wouldn’t mind becoming public!
Eve Edelheit: Growing up in Minneapolis, I think my early journalism skills developed from the time I was 4. As the daughter of a rabbi, I was expected to be able to carry on a conversation with anyone at anytime. My parents still remember how shocked they were as they watched me giving my condolences to a congregant when I was 5. This communicative ability proved to be invaluable for my future.
My photography interest first peaked when my dad gave me my first film camera. After several months my high school photo teacher pulled me aside and asked if I had ever considered becoming a professional photographer. Once I really began to think about a future in photojournalism, it made perfect sense to me. I have never claimed to be shy, and this medium became a way for me to meet new people and tell their stories. He helped guide me to the University of Missouri.
At the University of Missouri, I was lucky enough to have incredible photojournalism professors who took the time to get to know us and make sure we were headed on the right path. Getting to be a part of the Missouri photojournalism community is one of the highlights of my college experience. I had the opportunity to sit in on judging sessions for POYI and CPOY and learned from conversations between the best of the best in the industry. I learned how to tell a visual story, the importance of community journalism, and “how to set your hair on fire” with passion (professor, Rita Reed).
The one thing that no one knows about me: I am deathly afraid of butterflies. I went to a butterfly garden when I was a child, and they all flew at my face. Ever since, I run in fear of the harmless creatures.
JC: You were accepted to and attended Barnstorm XXIV at the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2011. For those who are thinking of applying this year, can you speak about your experience there and what you personally gained from that workshop?
EH: One of the most important things I learned during EAW is that it’s not about you as an individual photographer. It’s about what we can do as a photojournalism community. It was incredible to see award winning photographers and editors giving their time to help the next generation. The time at the barn reminds the next generation how important the philosophy of “pay it forward” truly is to make our community thrive.
Meeting editors and photographers I had looked up to for years was an overwhelming experience. But one of the most refreshing parts of EAW was the unspoken requirement that egos must be checked at the door. Everyone was open to questions, portfolio reviews or talking about life over a beer. It wasn’t about who’s portfolio was better or what internship you just got. Once you arrived at the barn, it was about learning together and beginning to figure out the different paths we were all on.
My time at the barn also challenged what I defined as photojournalism, and pushed me to not have such a narrow definition of what that could be. My understanding of light changed that weekend. I began to see that it wasn’t about the absence of light, or the abundance, but about adapting to what was before me, and learning to work with that.
JC: You are currently a photo staff intern at the Tampa Bay Times. How did you wind up getting that position and how has that experience been working out for you? Can you give our readers what a “day in the life of a photo intern” is like at the Times?
EH: I’ve interned at The Chautauquan Daily, The Peoria Journal Star, The Dallas Morning News, and currently at the Tampa Bay Times. When I was first applying for internships before graduation, I would often call my dad frustrated about how limited I felt my portfolio was and where I could honestly get an internship. He gave me some advice that took me a long time to truly realize.
He said, I wasn’t supposed to go to the Tampa Bay Times for my first internship. I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without spending time in each of those places and truly learning something different at each paper. I learned that it’s not about the size of the paper or the city you get to live in for a few months at a time. It’s about the photo staff, and how they serve the community through the mission of the newspaper.
My DOP at the Tampa Bay Times, Boyzell Hosey, gave me a great analogy of internships. “As a staff photographer, you learn to pace yourself as you are running a marathon, but as an intern, you are constantly sprinting.” Through 4 internships in 4 different states, I’ve been sprinting and I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride.
When I was in college, we would often look through stories newspapers were producing, and I remember always being impressed with what was produced by the then St. Petersburg Times. When I got into EAW, I’ll admit that one of the people I was hoping I would get to meet was Melissa Lyttle. She ended up being my team producer, and after several long car ride conversations, I knew I wanted to continue to learn from her and the rest of the staff at the Times.
The past 7 months has been the most exciting and most challenging experience I have ever had. During my time in Tampa I have covered The Republican National Convention, a presidential election in a major swing state, and a pirate invasion known as Gasparilla. I’ve gotten time to work on projects and collaborate with some of the best reporters working in newspapers today.
Interns are held to the same standards as staff photographers. There is a high expectation for bringing new enterprise ideas to the table weekly, both short and long term. And because our coverage area is so large, you never really know where you could get sent on assignment, which makes things exciting.
JC: I understand that the body of work “More than a Game,” which was published in the Times was pretty much self-generated. How did you come up with the idea and what steps did you have to take to get the paper to publish the images?
EH: When I arrived at the Times, my assigned mentor, Melissa Lyttle, had me brainstorm topics and stories I wanted to work on during my internship. We discussed high school football and how to best carry a project through the season. I was originally inspired for this topic during my time in Peoria by all of the moments I saw unfolding off the field. We came to the conclusion that a column could cover a majority of the teams in the county and would engage our readers in a different way than the sports section did with game coverage. I had never attempted a weekly column by myself before and Melissa helped prepare me before pitching it to the deputy DOP Bruce Moyer.
My pitch focused on creating a column that would highlight what makes Hillsborough county unique when it comes to Friday Night Football. The goal of the season was to show stories within the community that proved high school football wasn’t just a sport -- it was a tradition transcending generations that brought communities together.
After meeting with Bruce and my editor in Tampa, we decided that the column would run in the regional sections of Hillsborough County which would connect more with readers in specific areas of the community. While the column often went inside with 1-3 photos each week, a few times it made it to the front of the section as the centerpiece.
Before the season, I met with sports reporters, regional editors and my photo editor to prepare and do research for the upcoming season. At the beginning of each week, we would sit down and talk about my ideas for the upcoming weeks and how to spread out my coverage throughout the county. Then I would shoot my column, write the article to go with it and have an edit the following Monday.
Over 16 weeks, I covered 16 different schools and was forced to learn quickly how to gain access week and after week with a new team. I learned from each column what worked, and what didn’t. Sometimes stories fell through and I had to find replacements on the fly. I knew there was an expectation for a story each week so I couldn’t come back with nothing.
I also knew I had a lot to prove as an intern attempting a column. No intern had ever tried that at the Times, and the paper had seen the rise and fall of a few columns in the past. I wanted to show them I could make it through the season, providing new content each week.
My favorite part of working on the column was getting to be a part of this community. When you really care about a story, you don’t mind missing Friday nights out with your friends. As Alex Garcia once said, “As photojournalists, we get tickets to things they don’t sell tickets to.”
I was invited to funerals, homecoming dances, after game hangouts and sideline meetings. I heard screams of loss, watched stolen kisses and smelled locker rooms. Each of these experiences was a moment someone allowed me to witness. It made all of the grass stained pants and long hours worth it.
While I did this to show the reader stories in their own communities, I doubted anyone was reading the column. Until I began to receive grateful emails from coaches, saw instagrams from students and text messages from parents. Knowing that my column had made some impact on Hillsborough County was a surprising feeling, but a good one.
JC: I understand that you also wrote the text for that series and I can see from your website blogs that you are equally enthusiastic about writing. How important is the textual element in the stories you produce and how do you go about compiling the finished product?
EH: As a photojournalist, we are always thinking visuals first. Writing the column in addition to taking the photos reminded me how important both components are to a well-rounded package. It was a balancing act and sometimes I felt that the visuals were stronger than the text or vice versa.
I hadn’t written like this since I was a reporter at the Missourian in 2011 and it was a good exercise to get back into. Also, by doing the interviews myself, I was able to get insight on visual opportunities for the story that I might not have known about otherwise.
For the final product, I worked with my photo editor and my reporting editor. I sent the text to both of them and I received feedback on how the overall package came together. Towards the middle of the season, I became more interested in the design process for the column and would often discuss with my editors how photos would play out on the page. Columnist Ernest Hooper, regional editor Richard Martin and photo editor Stefanie Boyar were essential in creating a successful column.
JC: You’ve accomplished a lot at an early age. What’s on the horizon for Eve Edelheit? And what advice can you give other young photojournalists who are just starting in this business that may help in advancing their careers?
EH: On the immediate horizon, I was given a 6-month extension on my internship at the Tampa Bay Times and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the area. I have a few other projects in the works, but I’m already contacting coaches about next season’s, More Than A Game.
Here are a few pieces of advice I can offer:
- Fall in love with photojournalism. Let your passion for the job push you past your 40-hour week. Be there for the moments on a project, even if you aren’t scheduled to be working then. Life doesn’t stop because we are off the clock.
- Find a mentor or two. Find someone you can trust and ask questions, and who will kick your ass. Someone once told me that people who care about your work will tell you when it’s bad. Listen to them. Constructive criticism will help you grow.
- Learn from the rejections. Don’t dwell on what could have been; try to figure out what your next step will be.
- Don’t narrow your definition of photography. Look for new work that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
- Travel. Study abroad. Go study at a place like the Danish School of Journalism, it will change your life.
- Get involved in the photojournalism community. Apply for workshops and seek out people in your local photo communities. You’ll be amazed what you can learn in a week or weekend.
- Finally, take photojournalism seriously. But, not too seriously. (http://shitphotojournalistslike.tumblr.com/) (Language Advisory)
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