Secluded Sisters

For the past month, I have been working on a story for my photojournalism class documenting Catholic nuns in the small town of Newark, Ohio. Working on the story presented me with many challenges that ended up proving to me that yes, even though I have doubts sometimes, this is the major I'm supposed to be in and this IS my passion. One of the first challenges I encountered was feeling comfortable with the sisters. The sisters are extremely socially conservative, and I shouldn't have been surprised by this, but I was. I felt out of place, and I think that my discomfort caused them a little bit of discomfort. Additionally, they live much of their lives in silence, so I felt like a disturbance. Finally, I wasn't sure what moments were okay to photograph and what wasn't appropriate to photograph. I left my first shoot with the sisters feeling a little defeated. I wasn't sure if I should even continue to pursue the project. After some reassurance from my professor Marcy and my classmates, I decided to continue the story. It took some googling, but I found a former VisCom graduate student, Abigail Saxton, who had also done a story on the sisters. I sent an email to her asking if she could offer me any advice or tell me anything she would've liked to have known while working on her story about the sisters. Reaching out to this former student was one of the best things that I could've done, and I took her advice with me to my second shoot. I approached the sisters the second time with the intent of explaining to them exactly what I was doing. I made it known to them that I was covering their lives as a journalist, with no intentions of becoming a nun myself. Previously I had sensed a little bit of discomfort from them when I took a lot of photographs during prayer times, so this time I told them where I'd be standing, about how many photographs I'd take, and why I needed to be in that place (i.e. - the light was good). Over time, I grew more comfortable with them, and I'm so glad I did. I consider this struggle and resolution one of my best moments as a student yet. I'm proud of the work I've done on this story; I believe I've shared a unique story with people who otherwise would have never seen something like this, and I think I've created a story that could potentially change the audience's opinions on what living as a nun is like. Overcoming the mental challenges that I originally had and feeling like I've photographed a meaningful story has given me the push I needed to continue to pursue this major. Sometimes all it takes to get back on your feet is to do something you're passionate about, and I think that's exactly what I did with this project.

For my class, we had to turn in a Picture Page instead of prints or a slideshow of photos. This was my first time designing a picture page, but I think I did alright with it and I know that I can only improve from here. Check out the "Stories" section of my website to view a photo slideshow.