January 2018-Photos of the Month

I did a lot of firsts this month. I left a full-time job for an internship. I moved to a city I only heard about in the news. I moved to a community that wasn’t dominated by white people. And so far I’m loving it, and learning more than I ever have. 

I’m really happy I made this change. It has no doubt extended the longevity of my life as a photojournalist. I needed the perspective and the challenge. I hope that gives someone encouragement if they ever feel they need something more. I couldn’t have done it without the solid base of training I received at the Billings Gazette, my former place of work. 

So here I am now in Flint, Michigan. Home of a water crisis that is ongoing, pot-hole infested roads, abandoned houses and an incredible sense of community made up of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Some can’t leave and many choose to stay. It’s a mix of so many things. I was so excited to be thrown into the middle of it when I arrived. 

But then they sent me to a job fair on my first day. I winced when they told me. Job fair? In the middle of the day? Really? Fine. In my experience job fairs have always been small, maybe 100 people or less who were able to squeeze it in before class or work. And so off I went. Job fair… grumble.

As I drove to the job fair’s location I noticed traffic was heavy, I was in a long line of cars which inched its way to Mott Community College. Cars were parked along residential streets. Law enforcement was the only thing preventing angry motorists from running reds and hitting each other. Is this the same thing? 

When I entered the college I couldn’t believe what I saw. The line of people waiting for an interview was in the thousands. They were wrapped around the interior of the building, up stairwells and clogging hallways. And there were only 400 jobs available with the company, Lear Corporation. I was shocked. People in Flint need jobs, badly. That assignment was a great experience and introduction to members of the community. Never assume you know how an event is going to be, even a job fair. Over 1,500 people showed up and due to the influx of people, many were turned away. 

Over 1,500 people wait in line at a chance to be interviewed by four representatives from Lear Corporation at Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cars inch toward Mott Community College on Robert T. Longway Boulevard on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, on Flint’s east side. The college hosted a hiring fair and opened its doors for the first week of class resulting in stand still traffic and parked cars lining the surrounding neighborhoods.

Between 1,300 and 1,500 people wait in line for a chance to be interviewed by representatives from Lear Corporation during a hiring fair at Kildee-White Regional Technology Center of Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 in Flint. “People were arriving at 5:30 a.m.,” said Amy Fugate, Vice president for Academic Affairs at MCC. “I don’t think we expected this many,” she said.

Over 1,500 people wait in line at a chance to be interviewed by four representatives from Lear Corporation at Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Over 1,500 people wait in line at a chance to be interviewed by four representatives from Lear Corporation at Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tashonda Robinson, 29, waits to be interviewed be representatives from Lear Corporation on the third floor the Kildee-White Regional Technology Center of Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17. Robinson arrived at the college at 10 a.m. after working a graveyard shift in Goodrich. “I made it my business to be here,” she said. “I want to improve my lifestyle completely and live in a better area.” Robinson was one of thousands that waited hours in line for an interview. While several participants felt discouraged by the wait time, Robinson said she felt they were as organized as they could be.

David Foutch waits in line on the first floor of the Kildee-White Regional Technology Center of Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17. “I think it is worth the wait,” Foutch said. “I like this idea that they (Lear Corporation) are trying to restore Flint and Buick City.” It’s historical, he said.

Jimmy Johns employee Melissa Washington looks for a customer in line on the first floor of the Kildee-White Regional Technology Center of Mott Community College on Wednesday, January 17. This was her fourth time running sandwiches to the college for people waiting in line.

Ever since that assignment it has been non-stop in the best way. I’m so thankful to have met some incredible colleagues as well as my editor and mentor, Jake May. Also my coworker and roommate Zahra Ahmad. It has been a blessing to work and live with an equally driven and talented women as she is. We have so many ideas that we need two more of us, maybe three. I’m so looking forward to seeing the work we do together. 

With that being said, here are a few of my favorites from this month. 

Special prosecutor Todd Flood directs a question toward Dr. Stephanie Whisiker Lewis about the death certificate Legionnaires victim Robert Skidmore on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2018, at Genesee District Court House.

A man walks through the snow off Martin Luther King Street on Friday, Jan. 29, 2018, in Flint.

Joshua Sexton, center, listens as deputy Samantha Dolehanty explains what happens to a person once they come to jail on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at Shiawasssee County Jail in Corunna. Sexton was one of nearly 10 kids who participated in the program.

Deputy Jonathan Bonk speaks to a group of parents and kids in a cell on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at Shiawasssee County Jail in Corunna. Nearly 25 people participated in the program which educated kids and parents about jail culture, rules and regulations once in jail and the complications once released.

Andrew Fisher, 12, and Seth Monroe, 11, listen as deputy Jonathan Bonk presents a powerpoint about rules in jail on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at Shiawasssee County Jail in Corunna.

From left, Kopico Jones, 27, and Donald Holtz, 34, stand in front of nearly 25 people during a presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at Shiawasssee County Jail in Corunna.

Astronomer Todd Slisher looks through a magnifying glass to observe a piece of Stony-iron meteorite on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2018, at Longway Planetarium. The three pieces will eventually be on display at the Planetarium after they are tested in a lab environment at NASA.

Lawyer Larry Willey looks through files on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at Genesee District Court House.

Judge David J. Goggins looks at special prosecutor Todd Flood on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at Genesee District Court House.

Lawyer Willey Hoort looks down at documents on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at Genesee District Court House.

Swartz Creek’s senior Chianne Gloster looks to shoot the ball during a game against Flushing on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2018, at Swartz Creek High School in Swartz Creek.

Swartz Creek student section holds angry emoji signs toward Flushing’s senior guard Cal Endicott on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2018, at Swartz Creek High School in Swartz Creek.

Flushing’s sophomore guard Gave Avery looks to pass the ball on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2018, at Swartz Creek High School in Swartz Creek.

Swartz Creek’s senior Hunter Curtis looks to shoot the ball on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2018, at Swartz Creek High School in Swartz Creek.

Flint resident Maddy Harrison, 19, looks down at her newly designed tattoo on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, at Consolidated Tattoo and Barber Shop on West Kearsley Street.

Bay City resident Ericka Deford, 28, looks on during the Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Bay City. Deford said she was motivated to march because of friends and family members that had been abused. “I’m ready for women to stop being abused,” Deford said.

From left, barbers Nate Minard and Zac Minock trim their client’s hair on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, at Consolidated Tattoo and Barber Shop on West Kearsley Street. In addition to the tattoo shop there is also a barber shop that is located in the basement of the building.

A woman carries a sign with the words “Impeach Trump” during the Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Bay City.

Dell Bell, 4, smiles after playing basketball with his sibling at a court located near Martin Luther King Elementary School in Flint on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.

Always say yes to something that will make you better. Even if it goes against the norm.


December 2017 - Photos of the Month

Looking back at 2017, December was the month that brought the most change. 

The best change by far was my beautiful niece Hattie Jo who came into our world on December 23rd. I got to spend more than a week with my big brother William and his wife Amanda while we waited for the arrival of our precious new addition to the family. It was such an incredible experience to watch my brother become a father. 

Those days I will never forget and I’m so happy I had that time with them. 

So much happened before and after that as well. I finally saw a story publish that I had been working on for months. December was also the last full month I worked at the Billings Gazette. I overcame a lot of emotional obstacles along the way. 

In the new year I will begin my new job at the Flint Journal in Flint, Michigan. I cannot wait to hit the ground running in the community and tell stories about the people who live there. 

For now, here are a few favorites from last month. 

 

Welcome to the world little Hattie Jo Wittpenn.

From college crushes, married couple to new parents. My big brother William and his wife Amanda share a tender moment after Hattie Jo is born.

My mom Lisa and big brother William.

A moment I’ll never forget.

Waiting game.

Sweet baby Hattie Jo Wittpenn.

Back to work. Hellgate’s Kylie Lunday rebounds the ball at Skyview High School on Saturday, December 9.

Northwest Drifters Gordon Boese, right, and Bryce Barnhart, left, react after running into the water during the Billings Invitational Swim Meet at Rocky Mountain College on Saturday, December 2. The event raised $35,000 for the Special Olympics.

Plungers from the “Village People” run into the water during the Billings Invitational Swim Meet at Rocky Mountain College on Saturday, December 2.

Rocky’s Jared Samuelson jumps to block a shot against MSUB’s Zack Rollins at Alterowitz Gym at MSUB on Saturday, December 9.

Players from MSUB and Rocky jump to rebound the ball at Alterowitz Gym at MSUB on Saturday, December 9.

Rocky’s Craig Wilmore drives the ball to the basket at Alterowitz Gym at MSUB on Saturday, December 9.

MSUB’s Kamal Tall puts his head in his hands after a call made by the referee at Alterowitz Gym at MSUB on Saturday, December 9.

Hellgates’s Kylie Lunday and Skyview’s Kenzie Ketchum fights for the ball at Skyview High School on Saturday, December 9.

Ken Cottrell watches as his wife and Adullam co-founder, Jody, works on the computer in their office at the Adullam House on Tuesday, November 28. The Cottrells operate the House without grants or public funds as they rely heavily on their faith in God. They also charge residents $350 a month in rent. But do no turn people away if they can’t pay. In the past the couple has had to result to their personal savings to keep the program afloat. “I believe we are just supposed to do this,” Ken Cottrell said. “To give people a home and a second chance.”

Former Adullam resident, Sean Wentz, stirs a boiling pot of macaroni and cheese in his apartment in the Heights on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Having spent 30 year in prison for a double homicide, this is the first time Wentz has rented an apartment. “I basically grew up in prison,” Wentz said. Since his release, this is the first time he has ever owned appliances and furniture to furnish his two-bedroom home. “Living in my own place for the first time is incredible,” Wentz said. “I’m out of prison less than a year and this is an affirmation of how well I’m doing.”

Adullam resident Joey Marez, a convicted sex offender, sits with the Cottrells’ dogs at the Adullam House in Billings Gazette on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. The Cottrells own four dogs who act as service animals for men living in the house. “It’s not unusual for a man to be in the back room on his third or fourth day and cry and ask to go back to prison,”  said Ken, Adullam’s program director.

Daniel Cain attempts to fix his fiancee’s van at a friend’s garage on Rhea Lane on Saturday, October 7. Cain started working on cars when he was 12 years old. He’s been a mechanic nearly 40 years. “I can look at something and figure out how to do it in my head and do it,” Cain said. “I don’t worry about why it happened, I worry about making it work.”

See you in Flint next year!


November 2017 - Photos of the Month

Hadrian Sekavec stands for a photo on his way to a friend’s house on the south side of Billings on Tuesday, November 28.

Senior’s Garrison Poetzl celebrates after winning the first round of the Class AA playoff game at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium on Friday, November 3.

Senior’s Jager Skidmore rests during halftime in the State AA title game at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium on Friday, November 17

A Senior Bronc fans reacts after a call made by the referee during the State AA title game at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium on Friday, November 17

From left, Senior’s Alex Watterson, Ben LaBeau and Rico Martinez celebrate after defeating the Helena Bengals during the State AA title game at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium on Friday, November 17

Forsyth’s Michael Weber celebrates after a tackle made on the field during the 8-man semifinals in Forsyth on Saturday, November 11.

Forsyth Doggies’ mascot Nashua, an American Bulldog, looks off during the 8-man semifinals in Forsyth on Saturday, November 11.

Pigeons fly high above downtown Billings.

Skyview senior Brock Bushfield stands for a photo in the locker room at Skyview High School on Wednesday, November 29. Bushfield is a two-time state wrestling champion.

Madelynn Hust buttons Rylee Seeberger’s corset in the dressing room during the “Nutcracker” dress rehearsal at Alberta Bair Theater on Friday, November 24.

Dancer Ruby Hampton, center, adjusts Maci Yarina’s costume during a dress rehearsal of the “Nutcracker” at Alberta Bair Theater on Friday, November 24.

No nonsense November meant a lot of football and a lot of being at the right place at the right time. I haven’t shot sports for very long, maybe a year and a half or so. It’s crazy how hard my still heart pounds when the clock is dwindling down to the final moments in a big state game. My mind runs wild thinking “where should I be?” or “should I be standing or on my knees?” and whatever I decide, I usually switch at the last minute only to love the shot or hate it. So this month brought a lot of that. 

It also brought a lot of unexpected things. Like, a kid walking down the street in a scary clown costume with a toy hammer, or was it? Regardless you don’t see that everyday and my journalistic curiosity burned so badly I had to pull over and talk to the little scary clown boy. His answer to my asking why he chose such an outfit was simply because he “just felt like wearing it.” Oh to be a kid again. I would have the cops called on me if I did that in my neighborhood. 

This month I also pushed myself to go outside my comfort zone and do some photo work I don’t usually do. I got the honor to photograph one of my dear friend’s engagement sessions. I never thought I would start doing photography like this, coming from a pretty strict photojournalism background. It was a nice change that opened up more doors to shoot more engagement photos and a couple professional head shots here and there. 

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone. 

My next blog will be all about that so stay tuned. 

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