Rebecca Slezak, an undergraduate from Ball State University, won the C. Thomas Hardin and Mary C. Hardin Documentary Photojournalism scholarship.
As I reflect on my career accomplishments, I know that the things that I’ve learned along the way have had a more resounding impact on my life. Those whom I’ve wept with embraced and laughed alongside are the ones who’ve challenged me to grow the most personally and photographically. If I feel as though if I’ve learned something through telling someone’s story that is an accomplishment more important than any recognition.
Last year in the fall of 2018 I was given second place in the Hearst Photojournalism I competition. Shortly after, an opportunity presented itself and I accepted the position to be the 2019 San Antonio Express-News summer photo intern. There I learned valuable photo and life lessons from my editors Luis Rios and Michel Fortier. In the spring of 2019, I was named as a Hearst Competition semi-finalist before beginning my 10-week internship in San Antonio, Texas. This fall I was given an award of excellence in the sports action category by the judges in the College Photographer Of the Year competition. The image that received this recognition was inspired by Sammy Jo Hester. The recognition I have received in my career so far as a young photojournalist would not have been achieved without the mentorship I’ve been given in my journey.
After I graduate I hope to continue telling long-form stories that impact people’s lives. My eyes are not set on a specific job, but rather finding a community that I can fall in love with and document for years to come. As I’ve grown older I’ve realized that the stories I am most passionate about telling and am drawn to stories that reflect or are parallel to experiences I’ve had in my childhood and stories that challenge my way of thought. Specific subjects that I am curious about include: immigration, women in traditionally male roles, native culture in the west, and how youth find community amidst adversity. I approach each story as a learner, knowing that there is some valuable lesson I can gain from the people I meet in my body of work.
Click on pictures to see stories.
Giselle Silva, 26, is the mother of five children. Three of them, Mia Tellez, 6, Lewis (Mikey) Tellez, 5, and Vision Tellez, 2, are all diagnosed with a form of hypo-sensitive Autism. On a daily basis, the three kids crave sensory experiences for comfort and pleasure. Luna Tellez, 3, is not autistic but has developmental delays. One-year-old, Rhetoric Tellez is currently a patient in a study put on by researchers at the University of Texas in San Antonio. The Children’s Hospital and the Autism Treatment Center are working together to develop an early intervention program for babies at risk for developing Autism in a 15-week program called Project PLAAY (Parent-Led Autism Treatment for At-Risk Young Infants and Toddlers). With the father of the children, Larry Tellez, at work all day, Giselle is left to take care of the kids on her own. This photo essay magnifies the daily life of a family who have children on the Autism spectrum and their need for sensory experiences.
Pastor Christopher Martin gently lays his hands on Fredricka Savage to deliver God’s blessing as she cries out in surrender to Jesus. As the other weeping members of the congregation surround her, Fredricka lifts her hands in a plea for forgiveness. Martin slowly moves through the sanctuary, blessing the congregation who found their way to the Sunday morning service at the Cathedral of Faith Ministries’ Church of God in Christ. He connects with them all, one by one, each of them in a state of prayer and surrender. At least one parishioner nearby lies on the ground – enraptured and convulsing – and speaking in tongues.
“All we have to keep us going is faith in God,” says Martin later, alluding to the current situation faced by the Flint community.
Kameron Kadinger, 3, has a rare homozygous form of Acute Intermittent Porphyria disease. He is known to be one of six diagnosed with this form in the world. His mother, Amanda Jordan, spends all of her time taking Kam to appointments and the hospital. Amanda assumes she will be his caretaker for the rest of his life.
Kileah Adkins is a single parent attending Ball State University studying English education. Everyday Kileah balances the needs of her child, the demands of her schoolwork and the battle to go to work. “He is my driving force. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed from exhaustion and depression, but he is the sole reason why I do” states Adkins.