As my readers know, my duties as a news photographer include covering area school activities, from the first grueling two-a-day football practices in early August to the proud and nervous graduations in May. Each year I seem to get to know the kids a little better and get a little more involved in their lives.
The 2015-2016 school year was a particularly involving year for me, and for some reason, as I stood in the Cougar Activity Center last night surrounded by kids I photographed for essentially their whole lives, who were surrounded by their parents, who I essentially photographed their whole lives, I felt an acute sense of loss. I felt it far more than I did at my own high school graduation, and in some very important ways, I get more involved in their lives of the people I cover than I did with the people with whom I went to school.
This school year was complicated by the fact that for much of it, my newspaper had a staff member who made it difficult for us to do our jobs well. Despite this obstacle, I stubbornly continued to document these young lives. That staff member is gone, replaced by a talented and eager person who likes and respects my work.
I thought of that last night at Ada’s graduation, about how I wanted to push my images to the edge, to make them as good as I’ve got, since I knew they’d be appreciated and used well in our publication.
I was also amused by the way the kids at Ada High know me: as I watched them file from the school to the auditorium for last night’s commencement, a number of them waved at me and called me by name.
Lastly, I was truly surprised that in the dark work environment of 2015, I was able to do work good enough to earn an Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives sweepstakes award for coverage of last summer’s flooding. Bonus.