In January, I came across a remembrance in The New York Times of a pioneering photographer who had died recently. I read with interest about Louise Serpa and how she came to love both photography and rodeo. She was a pioneer in both. I grew up in a rodeo town, and one of my mentors in college was a rodeo photographer, so I have always had an interest in this area. Growing up, I knew a lot of people who were tough and classy like Serpa.
Though I have never been an arena photographer, it is easy to see how it can be both exhilarating and exceptionally dangerous. Other sports photographers may contend with thrown bats or a stumbling running back, but in Serpa’s profession, she had to keep shooting while avoiding bulls, broncs or bucked-off cowboys.
While reading the article, it occurred to me that Serpa was a true traiblazer — the lone woman in a field where men dominated, and she didn’t let that stop her. Serpa become famous — at least in the rodeo world — because she had a passion for arena photography and because she was good at it.
So I wondered whether there are there any trails left to be blazed today. For students working in media today, the answer is apparent. There has never been a more exciting time to be working in media. There have never been more tools for use in creating, more methods to research and gather information, or more platforms on which to tell a story. In short, there’s a wide-open frontier ready to be explored.
The take-aways from the article about Serpa are simple: Motivation, ingenuity, passion and willingness to work hard will get you what you want in life. Be open to exploration. Be curious. Seek solutions. And find a passion.
These aren’t new concepts. They’ve been shared by teachers, graduation speakers and parents for generations. What is new is that there are ways to start doing this in your student media right now. Pursue an ambitious story that needs telling, and show it to your readers. Experiment with new online tools like Tumblr or Storify. Dip your toes in the pond of a new area of digital media, and you’ll discover the water’s not so bad.
Just like Louise Serpa, you might have to dodge some obstacles. You might be the only person like you in a world of people who are different. But, don’t let that stop you. Breathe in the exhilaration. Blend your interests with your assignments. Blaze a new trail.
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