By Jana Life
If you grew up near Northwest Ohio, you probably have gone to a Mud Hens game, where you can lick Toft’s ice-cream cones, eat Tony Packo’s hot dogs, meet Muddy and Muddona, and watch fireworks.
These are all important staples of a night at Fifth Third Field in Downtown Toledo.
My own fondest memories of the Mud Hens came from my time in high school at Anthony Wayne, when I was a staff member for our monthly newspaper. For three years I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to each issue of the ‘General’s Dispatch.’ My roles evolved from staff writer to entertainment editor, and then to co-editor-in-chief and photographer.
Journalism class is what kept the eight-hour days bearable. Even though it was the apex of my high school career, I never saw myself pursuing it beyond those four years. It was fun, but not job worthy. ‘That’s for other people,’ I told myself. So when it came time to graduate, I knew I would miss it.
At the end of each school year, our wonderful advisor would take the staff to a Mud Hens baseball game and treat us to PizzaPapalis. In retrospect, I would have never thought I would be sitting in that same stadium with a Toledo Blade photographer only a few years later, seriously considering a career in photojournalism.
However, that is exactly where I was on the night of July 19, 2016.
Last year, on a whim, I enrolled in a basic photography class at Kent State University. After being encouraged by my professor to continue on into a Photojournalism 1 class, I began to fall in love with the idea of storytelling through pictures. But I was still not sure it was a realistic career choice. A mentor at school knew I needed more answers and better exposure to the world of Journalism, so he suggested I contact Lori King, who was an former classmate of his. I emailed her, and she offered to let me shadow her at a Mud Hens game.
Frankly, I think being a photographer scares me. I came into college not having a clue what I wanted to do. I just knew I loved people and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around me. When I realized photojournalism combines my passions of art, people, and travel, I knew it was something I had to think about more seriously.
Is this really what I want to do with the rest of my life? Am I good enough to make it? What will my parents think? Will I make enough money?
These were the questions I kept in the back of my mind as we arrived at the stadium that night. A familiar feeling of importance, often experienced by a photographer wielding an expensive camera at an event, washed over me as I passed through the gate. Lori’s 300mm lens rested on my shoulder, which intensified the already sweltering summer heat. We climbed the stairs to the media room, where Blade sports reporter John Wagner filled us in on who he needed photographed.
As soon as I set foot on the field and lifted my camera to meter the light, I felt a rush of adrenaline. Lori gave me full access to wherever I wanted to go and whatever I wanted to shoot. This was more than I ever could have asked for.
Throughout the rest of the night it was so wonderful to get to know Lori and learn how she ended up at the Blade. Even more wonderful was to hear about her family, and how she has successfully juggled being a mother and a photojournalist.
Many of the famous photographers I learn about in class lead incredibly complicated lives. They give up everything to move to exotic places and risk their safety every day to get the shot. They sacrifice a family for their work. While this life does sound glamorous and inviting in its own way, I am forced to consider another dream of mine – someday having my own family. When I was first introduced to the world of photojournalism, it seemed that the words mother and photojournalist were mutually exclusive; it was so refreshing to meet Lori and see her live out these two roles successfully.
As we sat in the stadium that night, and later at a table editing pictures together, I felt I could really see myself doing this for the first time. I fell in love with the idea of being a photojournalist all over again, but the dream was finally made tangible. I felt like it was something I was capable of achieving, and not just a lofty idea I entertained sometimes after class or with other photographer friends.
I still don’t know if you will ever see my name underneath a Pulitzer Prize winning photo, or even a picture in a local newspaper, but now I know if I wanted to, I could make that dream a reality.