The time has come for me to leave my position as Senior Designer for Kent State Magazine. I’ll be starting as the manager of student affairs for the Myers School of Art & Design in late June. I’m excited for my new position, but I couldn’t leave without revisiting the 10 issues I’ve had the pleasure of working on as a designer, photographer and illustrator.
I’ve made a list of 10 stories we’ve covered over the past (nearly) 4 years, with a bit of reasoning for each one. It was harder than I anticipated to narrow it down to just 10… and I can’t call them a “top” or “favorites” list because that would feel too exclusive.
The truth is, any story I witnessed coming together under the leadership of Editorial Curator Jan Senn was like magic. There were always so many components to every story we published. Like a wizard, she’d get it all to fit into my layout while still managing to maintain readability and takeaway for our audience. She taught me so much about editorial work and what it really means to be a good collaborator. Thank you, Jan.
Without further ado, here are my 10 stories from Kent State Magazine (in no particular order, completely non-comprehensive and probably leaving out some great ones because 10 is a very small number…):
This story required a bit of travel (which was always fun) down to Newark, Ohio. My goal: capture Bill Auld helping people fly on set. The drive to Newark took me right past the iconic former headquarters of Longaberger Baskets. But the architecture marvels didn’t stop there! The Courthouse Square in Newark is home to an original Louis Sullivan building built in 1914. Yes. That Louis Sullivan.
Not only were the sights interesting, but learning how much responsibility Bill takes on in his day-to-day career made me marvel that he agreed to do it at all. Bill helps theater performers like Peter Pan and Easter angels fly. His job is so unique that I ended up needing to meet with him again at the Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center to have better control of the light for the image that ended up in print. Not to be out-done by scenery and road-side attractions, Bill got me up on the wire that day, something I will likely never forget.
Every time we developed a story requiring a visit to the archives, I was a happy camper (these kinds of stories came up at least once in every issue). This story came to us unexpectedly and helped us understand why a man who never enrolled as a Kent State student would make a such a generous donation to help photojournalism and photo illustration students pursue their passion. (Full disclosure: As a photographer, I think this story meant a little more to me than it would have otherwise.)
This story was a beast—a lot of pretty heavy content. In my effort to create a more inviting layout for this important story, I went with a soap opera comic style illustration. I’ve done my fair share of illustration for the magazine in my time, but this was a real challenge for me, both stylistically and conceptually. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and hopeful it engaged a wider audience than other approaches may have.
We got to spend an afternoon in the Cleveland Botanical Gardens climbing tree houses and interviewing the architects who designed them. This is just one example of why “what do you do for a living?” became one of my favorite questions to answer—that day gave me the answer: “I play in tree houses near beautiful plants and photograph what I see.”
Sometimes the smallest of stories turn into quite a project. That was the case when we decided to feature Dave Riccio’s notoriously disheveled office for a new department: Office Hours. When we met Dave, he seemed ready to be photographed just the way he was. However, we saw that he had a bit too much stuff piled on top of other stuff—and had just finished reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up—so we offered to help Dave re-discover his office, right down to the floor.
Dave was game. We visited him a few times to help him figure out what his filing style was, where to store his collection of (non-living) rats and where to put his cows doing yoga calendar. Dave is a very patient and kind man who insisted on taking us out for beers (sparkling water in Jan’s case) after all we did for him and his corner office.
When we stopped in to check on Dave today, we caught him just as he was walking in. We heard his office isn’t as tidy as it appeared when we took this photo, but he’s doing better than before. He’s still as sweet as ever, and I was glad to get to say farewell to him before my last day.
Tess is someone who will always put a smile on my face—her passion for others is paramount, and a testament to the life she leads. She’s getting married this week, and I couldn’t be happier for her. Her path may look slightly different than when we covered this story in 2016, but I know she has an even more inspiring road ahead.
Getting to know Bea McPherson has been a joy. It took us a few issues to work this story into our editorial plan, but it has been so well received by all different kinds of readers. I’m so glad Bea is getting continued recognition for her service and that she is still telling her story and inspiring young women today!
A story about students learning to make wine and getting to sample wine after finishing up the photoshoot—need I say more?
We had the opportunity to profile KSU alumnus and Akron native Mark Mothersbaugh when his retrospective show Myopia arrived at the Akron Art Museum in May 2016. I was eager to try my hand at feature writing and Jan was gracious enough to give me a chance.
The research came together well enough, but the real challenge quickly became clear: sticking to the word count! This story not only taught me a lot about DEVO, Mark Mothersbaugh and experimental art in Northeast Ohio—it also taught me how much work it is to write clear and engaging editorial content.
Working on this project will remain one of my favorite projects from my time at Kent State. Getting to hear first-hand all the different perspectives from Kent State faculty, staff, students and alumni from around the world was inspiring, uplifting and eye-opening.
This story granted me the amazing honor to meet and photograph composer Halim El-Dabh, which in and of itself would be enough content for this entire post.
Halim was a very kind man, who very eagerly shared his stories with us. He had a very significant impact on modern electronic music, one which I have only just begun to understand. It has been one of the sadder moments of my time at Kent State when I learned of his passing in September 2017.
The final issue I designed will be dropping in mailboxes in late June (Spring/Summer 2018), and contains many stories I’m honored to have been able to help craft including a profile on Pacifique Niyonzima (which is featured on the cover) and a history of the 50 years of Kent Blossom. (Check back in a few weeks for these links to be updated once the issue has actually landed in mailboxes!)
I chose not to include my last issue in the above list for the same reason I left out all the KSU Collections departments: I wouldn’t be able to choose only one. I loved getting to photograph the collections and learn about what they meant to the curators and schools they belonged to. I enjoyed it so much they could have easily made up more than half this list, but I suppose if I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose the Reinberger Children’s Library (mostly because I love pop-up books!)
There are many wonderful stories I realize I regrettably didn’t list: Emelia Sherin, Brent Wesley, Keri Richmond, Dangerous Buzz and a story on food waste, to name a few. I feel lucky I got to spend nearly four years helping present these (and many other) stories to such a wide audience, which has been an experience I will not soon forget.
My new job will be different, but it means working more directly with students, and I’m very excited for that opportunity.
I wouldn’t be ready for this job change without the help of all my colleagues, past and present, who have continued to teach and encourage me. We spend so much of our lives with the people work with, and I feel lucky to have had such amazing people next to me.
Special thank you to Al & Mary Lou Stephens, Jason Martin, Sarah Pastre Mironchuk., Susan Stephens, Christine & Brian Martin, Allie Charitan, John Puglia, Anthony Taylor, Steve Darval, Jessica Barker-Blanchfield, Aaron Coyne, Suzanne Bertz-Roza, Eric Jacobs, Jan Senn, Lauren Rathmell and so many, many more. Thank you for being amazing examples of lives well lived and careers (nay, vocations) well spent.