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University of Missouri

With Flags Flying

Parker Michels-Boyce, BJ ’08, photographs the presidential inauguration.

inauguration crowd

On the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013, Amaya Tanks (center), from Altavista, Va., waves her flag and yells from the arms of her uncle, Jerome Payne, moments before the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, is sworn in for a second term.

Parker Michels-Boyce, BJ ’08, a photojournalist for The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Va., talks about his career in photography.

Q: When did you start taking photographs, and what drew you to the medium?

jumper shadows

“A photo I took in high school that I’ve always liked. It was part planned, part luck, but I still think the composition – light and shadows – are interesting.” – Parker Michels-Boyce

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.

girl staring at fish

A portrait of a Mizzou student. Stephanie Berg’s hobby is breeding guppies in her bedroom in Columbia and selling them to stores there and in Kansas City.

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 LIFEI 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.

jumpers

Madison Dietz, (foreground) 10, of Niles, Mich. jumps high over the other patrons on the EuroBungy ride at the Apple Festival Sept. 27, 2007.

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.

storm damaged living room

Frances Lukens surveys the tangle of boards and tree limbs piercing her living room ceiling in Lynchburg, Va., June 30, 2012. A huge oak tree fell on the house during the ‘derecho’ wind storm the previous night.

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.

man and fawn

Ben Cunningham calms a fawn that was attacked by one of his family’s dogs at their home June 16, 2012, in Afton, Va.