Capturing the Moment in Photojournalism Class

student inside Barnes and Nobles on campus in book aisle taking a photo
Kailey with her camera out front of Barnes and Nobles on the Rowan Blvd
Kailey Bertelson, a junior advertising major who is a first generation college student from Manahawkin, NJ (Ocean County), taking photos on Rowan Boulevard.

Your photography skills before the class vs. after?

I had very little photography knowledge at the beginning of the course but was eager to learn more. I wanted to be criticized and really come out of the class with a new found perspective on how to approach photography.

Kailey with camera on the Rowan Blvd.

I quickly learned photography has a lot to do with feeling. Embracing the emotional side of photography was taught in this course which I believe often gets looked over on the surface. Investing your emotions and aiming to capture the emotion of the subject in your photos was what lead me to succeed in this class and as a photographer. Every week I would push myself to shoot with the advice Professor Hawk gave us, shoot a lot and spend more time searching and experimenting with angles.

By the end of the semester I knew what settings to shoot in, what to look for and what to avoid or eliminate when shooting. I also had a collection of strong photos that were all shot with emotion and told the story of the subject.

photo Kailey took of a female holding her hat facing away with the blue sky and kites in the background
Photo by Kailey

Insight on the professor?

Professor Hawk went above and beyond when making himself available as a resource, friend and mentor. His classes run casually, he encourages friendship within the class and speaks candidly to his students about things like exposure, bad work and emotional investment. His own career experience of being a photojournalist for was constantly referenced during the course. The same rules and principles that were taught to him as a professional photojournalist, he taught to us.

photo Kailey took of workers out on the steps in Washington DC
Photo captured by Kailey in Washington, D.C.

He left the class all feeling well equipped to enter a professional environment as a photographer. All feedback Professor Hawk gave me drove me to become a better storyteller. He was always willing to meet you to shoot or to go through your photos and select the standouts. Professor Hawk always wanted to see you succeed as a student and a photographer. He saw everyone in the class’ strengths, and pointed them out when you might not have recognized them.

Favorite assignment you completed over the course?

photo Kailey took of two children playing on the green grass outside the Washington Monument
Kailey captured two children playing on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument.

My favorite piece I completed throughout the class was our final project. We were assigned to follow a story, it had to be something we were passionate about and something worth sharing. I mentioned to Professor Hawk that my dream in life was to operate boutique luxury hotels. He had just so happened to be following the restoration of a boutique hotel in historic Cape May, N.J. I jumped on this opportunity and asked him if I could join him while covering the story.

We at first met the owner of 5 Perry Street and then were invited to observe the ghost hunting part of the restoration. The owner was doing everything herself, she was the sole owner, and would be the operator once 5 Perry Street was finished. I was inspired by her and saw the passion and ambitions she had for 5 Perry Street, that was the story I wanted to tell.

photo Kailey took of female standing inside old hotel building in Cape May
Photo taken by Kailey at 5 Perry St. in Cape May

Cape May is also a beautiful beach town, being from Manahawkin, NJ I spend a lot of time on the beaches of Long Beach Island. Working on this project reminded me a lot about home, it felt refreshing to be near the ocean and around small business owners and their spirits. I believe my personal ties to the story and location are what made it my favorite project.

What would you say to someone interested in photography & this course?

If you are at all interested in photography, take this course. It will force you to push whatever boundaries you are currently shooting in and will leave you with wanting more. Once you take this course you’ll understand how photography and journalism provide a medium to share those stories that are worth sharing.

Kailey holding camera inside barnes and nobles inside book store

Capturing intimate moments through photos was one of the goals I strive towards in my photography. You could be shooting for hours in attempt for one photo, and once you have that photo you feel so accomplished and become anxious to share it. This course felt less like a class and more like a club. Professor Hawk always brought snacks, we shot on our own time and told stories about our photos. We were open to feedback and all built each other up with genuine compliments. The course will improve your photography skills, provide new opportunities and reveal your own style of photography.

How does this class affect your pre-professional opportunities?

Taking photojournalism has also improved my work with the social media team at Rowan. As a student worker for the department I monitor all the University’s content, engage with students and take notes of any issues they have.

Writing strong photo captions was one skill Professor Hawk was extremely adamant about. Applying those same journalism principles to all the University’s content has ensured proper captions that tell the story of the corresponding photo. I have also been given a space to share my thoughts on a particular photo. Does the photo fit the Rowan brand? Does the photo tell a story worth sharing? How will the photo be received by followers once posted? These are all questions Professor Hawk forces you to ask about your own photos. 

I particularly love when lessons I’ve learned through my courses can be applied to my work at Rowan. I feel that sense of pride in myself and in my surroundings that I am in the exact right place. #RowanProud 

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Story by: Kailey Bertelson, junior advertising major, strategic communication and journalism minor
Photography by: Kailey Bertelson and Vanessa Vause, senior public relations, advertising & theatre major