For the last four years at Western Kentucky University we’ve sat through literally hundreds of photojournalism program lectures about telling powerful and personal stories through the lenses of our cameras. We've been taught that great stories come from talking to people on the street and sharing moments with people in their homes. In the middle of our last semester we were completely stripped of those tools. As a class, each of us were deep into the production of our capstone projects; for many of us they would be the highlights of our careers at WKU.
With the finish line in sight, we were thrown an unprecedented curveball. We’d obviously heard about the virus, but we took for granted the potential it had to disrupt our lives. We left campus excited for spring break, saying “see you later” instead of “goodbye”. Just like that we were locked down and our finish line moved impossibly out of sight. “What now?” Was on everyone’s mind but in no time discussions began on a group project to document the evolving crisis.
This was a learning experience for all of us. We learned how to connect with people through our webcams. How to tell stories about life and humanity through the lens of someone else's iPhone. Without ever touching our cameras, we collected stories from people across the country. Without ever meeting in person, we collaborated digitally to storyboard, produce, and edit a project with dozens of unique voices. We put into practice perhaps the most essential skill we’ve learned; how to adapt and overcome.
Now we look towards the future. Searching for work in an uncertain job market, moving away from the college town we’ve all called home, no chance to say goodbye to our favorite diners and dive bars. A more bitter than sweet final semester, to say the least. Through all of the ups and downs of these days, there is one thing that helps us get through. When someone asks in 20 years what we did during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can show them how we all overcame our historic circumstances.