“As I fought Westheimer traffic hoping to make it on time to my first day of my internship, excitement and doubt fought to occupy my thoughts. I was excited for this opportunity to see how a photography business operates, but I also felt like I should have an internship more like the ones my fellow journalism majors had at popular newspapers, one that would let me write every day. I had — and still have — dreams of working as the powerful newspaper editor assigning stories or the reporter chasing down government officials to break an investigative story that will have its place in history books. While I was eager to shadow photo sessions, I didn’t fully see how that would give me the storytelling skills I was sure that the other journalism students were rapidly gaining at their internships.
But now I know that Gittings’ multi-faceted approach to a photography business provided exactly the lessons I needed. Just like when I’m interviewing sources for an article, it’s important to get to know clients before photographing them. Yes, the ultimate goal is to capture the perfect portrait — or, in a journalist’s case, write a captivating article — but it’s how you get to that final product that matters. Will you just go through the motions, or will you take time to connect with the subjects? Gittings has taught me that forming this connection can be as easy as asking “How are you?” or as difficult as cracking joke after joke to try to set a relaxed tone. Either way, photographers and journalists alike have to connect with subjects in order to produce authentic stories.
Each photographer I’ve shadowed has his own methods of placing the lights and taking the white balance shot, and each photographer creates great images because they take the time to know the clients. I’ve seen Greg Lorfing, CEO, coax out laughs from clients who were so nervous about their business portraits that they almost forgot to breathe, and I’ve seen high-strung executives relax after hearing Sam Schultze, Director of Photography, crack some jokes.
I spent the most time with Sam. I joke that he was like my office dad, but I’m sincere when I say that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend hours in the warehouse or photographing new employees at a consulting firm with anyone else. His daughter is one year younger than me, so he often asked me about sorority life or college budgets. When I wasn’t learning about his daughter or photography — or teaching him about Harry Styles — I happily listened to his advice: embrace this time where I’m free to try out different jobs, travel where I want, and take time off when I have the chance. I’m not sure exactly what I want my career path to look like, but I do know that I want to tell stories. I used to stress about not knowing exactly what I want to pursue when I graduate college, but working closely with Sam made me recognize the beauty in the unknown.
During my last few weeks, I spent lots of time with the newest photographer, Sarah. Our first time meeting, we spent six hours in the warehouse moving boxes of negatives and marveling at the fact that we were holding Gittings’ history in our callused, dusty hands. I’m thankful I’ve made my own mark on Gittings’ history. From filling out spreadsheets to setting up lighting, each task has taught me the importance of the small things when it comes to storytelling.
Before working here, all business headshots looked the same to me. But now I know that a tilt of the head, a different colored blazer, and a slightly wider smile can change the narrative of a headshot. Gittings has taught me that it’s important to know how to operate the camera, but it doesn’t matter if your aperture and lighting are perfect if the subjects don’t feel welcomed. This is just like writing; my polished grammar and prose will mean little if I don’t connect with my subjects enough to bring them to life through paragraphs and quotes. Whether it’s through photographs or words, storytelling is about letting yourself and your subjects be authentic.
In that spirit, I’ll tell you that I don’t know exactly where my experience with Gittings will lead me, but I do know that, unlike my first day, excitement has defeated the nerves. For now, I’m headed back to UT Austin to continue my journalism studies. I’m sure I’ll hear about my peers’ internships where they wrote 500-word articles every week, but now I recognize that writing isn’t the only way to become a better storyteller. I’ll tell anyone who asks about the unexpected valuable lessons I learned from filling out spreadsheets, editing images in Photoshop, and lifting boxes in a warehouse. Overall, my time at Gittings taught me different ways to tell stories, something I’ll cherish as I decide what I want my own to look like.
Again, we wanted to thank Carolyn for all of the hard work she put into her internship here at Gittings. We all were very impressed with her personality and skills, and wish her well on her return to school.
You can read more about Carolyn and the start of her Gittings Global internship.