With Flags Flying
Parker Michels-Boyce, BJ ’08, photographs the presidential inauguration.
Q: When did you start taking photographs, and what drew you to the medium?
A: I started taking photos on a trip to Guatemala when I was 14. It was a work trip to help a charity organization, and I was too young to do some of the tasks, so they appointed me trip photographer. I remember climbing trees to get better angles and preferring candid shots of people. In high school I kept a digital camera in my backpack to take photos of my friends skateboarding after school, but ended up shooting more throughout the day. I liked finding neat light, shadows and catching funny moments.
Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in photography?
A: I’ve always liked to travel, and I remember photojournalism popping up on lists of possible careers in middle school. I considered it more seriously in high school when I found myself spending hours in the darkroom and never feeling bored. Pulling prints from the developer is magical. Around that time, I got some recognition from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, which encouraged me further. When I toured the J-School at Mizzou, I thought that, if I am going to do this, here is the place to be.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: I try to plug into the global photo networks as often as I can. I find that seeing new work motivates me to do more and do it better. I attend talks and exhibitions whenever possible, and I am fortunate to live near the annual LOOK3 photo festival in Charlottesville, Va. Online, I look at The New York Times Lens blog; The Big Picture; The Image, Deconstructed; Strobist; and friends’ blogs. I also appreciate the discussion and critiques from the online photo community A Photo a Day. Of past photographers, I feel influenced by Alexander Rodchenko, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and shooters from National Geographic and LIFE. I have great respect for newspaper photographers who consistently raise the bar, such as Craig F. Walker, Carolyn Cole, Ross Taylor, Damon Winter, Lisa Krantz, Todd Heisler and Scott Strazzante.
Q: In a time when there is much instability in the newspaper industry, what made you want to be a newspaper photographer?
A: Newspapers play a vital role in a society or community, and I wanted to be a part of that. With so many newspaper doomsayers around when I graduated in 2008, rather than get discouraged, I felt motivated to get in before it was too late. Even during the time it took me to find a job, I was shooting little stories for myself around town and trying to stay sharp. I enjoy this work, and I love the variety of subject matter that I get to cover.
Q: What type of planning goes into covering an event like the presidential inauguration?
A: I was there to photograph a group of people from the Lynchburg, Va., area, so I didn’t go through any special security measures or request press credentials. My day lasted from 1 a.m., when our bus left for Washington, D.C., until 11 p.m., when the photo page layout was finalized. Knowing it would be a long day, I tried to pack efficiently: lenses, notepad, extra batteries and snack bars in a small shoulder bag, and two cameras. My main concern was keeping my bag size to a minimum so I could move through the crowd. I wanted a wide shot over the crowd, so I also carried a monopod that I used to hoist my camera above my head. The thousands of flags they passed out were a nice surprise. The only thing I wish I’d done differently was get more sleep beforehand — my planned nap on the bus didn’t happen.