We all have interests. And if you're been looking at my work for any period of time, you'll have noticed that the military is one of mine. No, I'm not some nerdy history buff or interested in modern warfare or anything like that. I'm the black sheep of my family. And not in the normal sense in that I'm some social outcast from them. But everyone in my family — my father, my mother, both of my grandfathers, my uncle and my sister — have military experience. So I've been around it all of my life. And since my sister is in the ROTC battalion at MU, I get to hear her talk about it all the time. So, I thought it would be a good idea to go out with the battalion and photograph the female cadets on a field training exercise in Macon, Missouri.
I photographed the ROTC's field training exercise (FTX) from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday for my Picture Story capstone's one-day story. I'd say 17 hours is a pretty good amount of time to spend on a traditional one-day story, no matter how tired I was.
For the assignment, we were supposed to employ the traditional tools of a picture story, keeping things in mind such as lens choice, types of shots, framing, style and storytelling. I had a pretty wide idea — female cadets — and that allowed me to explore a variety of situations through the different levels of female cadets in their battalion, who were all doing different things depending on their year.
Overall, my shooting was very up and down during the day. I started out really excited, then went to really bored and uninspired. Then I had to march through the thorny woods for awhile, so I was just really tired and did not want to work very hard, which was not good. But later on the day, around dinner time, I felt like I got my bearings, figured out what I was missing, and got excited by the light around me and the things that were going on.
I think one of the things I lacked doing in my story was photographing abstractly. I was searching for eye candy — things that were pretty, had good light, were visually interesting. But I think I struggled thinking about concepts within my photographs, which this story had a lot of potential to do. I feel like I missed some opportunities showing the relationships between female and male cadets in the battalion and did not highlight the possible inner struggle that females may have in the army. I also think I may have set females apart from males too much, when in reality, at this level in ROTC, females do nothing different from males (aside from PT and hair standards).
I have a lot of singles that I really like, because I think they're pretty, but I don't feel like I upheld the "journalist" part of photojournalist. I feel like I should have asked more questions and spent more time thinking about what my story was. And I feel like that's reflected in my story, which does an OK job of addressing some issues females have, but not a complete one.
I think one of the things I did a good job of, though, was finding the light and varying my types of shots. I found I had a variety of pictures that were wide, tight, medium, etc. I got the variance of storytelling down visually, just not story-wise, I suppose!
It was a really great day and I had a great time with the females I spent time with throughout my very long, cold, windy day in Macon, Missouri. Although I don't know if I'll be going on another FTX any time soon — it was a day in exercise , marching and journalism! — I know I will be spending more time telling stories about individuals in the military and I hope this may be a starting off point to get my mind thinking about issues — or non-issues — that can arise with females in the military.