For my final project this semester in my photojournalism class, we created photo stories of local happenings. Errin Whitaker, self-titled Brother Lightheart and his fellow artists showed me around their spaces in the Fisher Building’s Fourth Floor Initiative space, dedicated to give local creatives a place to do their work, rented at a subsidized rate. The artists enjoy each other’s company and collaborate often. I used Adobe’s Premier Pro to edit together my audio and photos together to create the video below.
For our assignment on feature photos, I decided to use a shot I took of a group of window washers at work in downtown Detroit. The Features assignment was to capture a “slice of life,” a street shot of someone we don’t know. I found the contrast of these men’s bodies against the overcast sky incredibly striking, and I used the law of thirds in this photo. as well as a bit of perspective. I felt this was a good example of simply capturing life around me.
Window washers off Woodward in downtown Detroit, April 18
The second half of the assignment was to create a photo story using the iPhone app, Steller. I made two Stellar projects, one of artwork at the Carr Center in Downtown Detroit and another of my recent trip to the Dominican Republic.
This art exhibit at the Carr Center features local female artists whose works’ are themed in femininity and what it means to be a woman. Pieces in the exhibit ranged from paintings to different forms of sculpture using mixed media.
In my time in the Dominican Republic I spent time traveling in between the resort side of the island, Punta Cana, and the more residential area of La Romana. In this photo series, I captured local Dominicans, workers in the resort town, professional sailors, and even one of the many stray cats in the area.
Shooting sports was the assignment I’d been dreading the most this semester. I’ve always had a fear of volleyball in particular, but this was the only sports assignment that fit into my schedule. I managed to keep myself from ducking every single time the ball only slightly flew in my general direction, but I wanted to and I did at least a few times. I don’t keep it a secret that I understand very little about sports, other than the basic appreciation of teamwork and camaraderie, and have very little interest in covering it as a journalist. With so little basic understanding of gameplay and terminology, I struggled to write captions for these photos as well.
Shooting the assignment didn’t seem difficult, with the exception of having a difficult time finding a correct white balance, but that was easily corrected in photoshop. I kept my shutter speed short to have stopped motion for the action and kept my ISO high as well. The biggest challenge during shooting was finding a good fan feature- there wasn’t a large crowd and they weren’t extremely reactive, luckily one man in the crowd brought some pom-poms and cheered often. I think what I learned the most about in this assignment was jumping through the hoops of finding a Wayne State game that was appropriate for photographing and acquiring the proper permissions.
All jokes aside, shooting this assignment wasn’t as awful as I was expecting it to be. I appreciated watching the players supporting each other and doing something they enjoy.
Fans cheering on Wayne State University’s volleyball team at the game April 7.
Teammates Grace Frazee, Ellie Rodriguez, Natalie Breault, Haley Tenelshof and Hailey Richardson pictured supporting their teammates during their game April 7.
Northern Michigan’s Kelsey Hackman and Tayler Smith, defend against Wayne State’s Hailey Richardson, Ellie Rodriguez and Haley Tenelshof at the game April 7.
Julia Malewicz of Macomb, Mich. listens to WSU volleyball head coach Tim Koth at the game April 7.
Errin Whitaker, self-named “Brother Lightheart,” is carrying with him a worn, large Samsonite suitcase as he gets into the Fisher Building’s ornate elevator.
“I’m a wild dude,” said Lightheart, who brought the suitcase and some art supplies into his shared space on the fourth floor, over-crowded with his paintings and sculptures.
Lightheart often uses mixed media in his work, including found objects. He said he had to do a U-turn in order to pick up the suitcase, which was sitting on the side of the road.
“I think sometimes in life you should do U-turns even though it’s like quote unquote illegal, and it’s symbolic to how you sometimes decide to go against the grain,” said Lightheart. “You’ll find the treasure when you do that. I think this is a treasure.”
Lightheart is taking part in the Fisher Building’s initiative to fill their fourth floor with local artists at a subsidized rate. Lightheart and fellow artist Jessica DeMuro who also rents gallery space on the fourth floor, often discuss the pieces they’re working on and the meaning behind them to determine which step should be taken next. DeMuro suggested Lightheart include old family photos in the suitcase piece, to which he immediately agreed.
“I listened to my inner voice, and that’s what told me to do a U-turn,” Lightheart said. He explained that the suitcase brought to mind his life experiences as a black man.
“Black men have a lot of baggage,” said Lightheart, “as far as like we don’t necessarily take the steps to move backwards in order to correct the things that are ever-present in your present which triggers the effects of your future.” (sic)
“So if you don’t deal with that baggage, essentially things I’m going to put in here,” he gestured to the suitcase, “things that could easily go un-dealt with like family issues, generational curses and stuff like that. You just carry it along and you don’t pay attention to it, because as a black man you’re just told to continuously work until you die.”
Lightheart shares his gallery space with two other artists, Harold Braggs III, and a new tenant Tonaya Chapman, who often goes by Saint. Lightheart said that the spiritual energies of his fellow artists influence the space, and that Saint’s non-binary gender affects the space in a new and exciting way. He explained they like to do drag events, and that he and Saint share an interest in the metaphysical.
DeMuro, who often rides a Razor scooter back and forth from Lightheart’s space to her own space on the other side of the north wing of the Fisher Building’s fourth floor said she’s only known Lightheart for about six months, but feels like she’s known him for years or even lifetimes.
“I would definitely say there’s mentorship going on,” DeMuro said in reference to her relationship with Lightheart. “There’s parts of Errin [Lightheart] he doesn’t show everybody, and sometimes I get the honor of seeing that, and I don’t take that lightly.”
“Jessica [DeMuro] calls me the manager of this floor. You know, it comes with responsibilities, and I got to make sure people are taking care of this space and they meet all the checks and balances and such,” said Lightheart.
Lightheart said he received his chosen name while on his first “vision quest” in his personal spiritual practices. He said the nomadic Lakota tribe out of South Dakota is where he acquires his spiritual influences and that he identifies himself as a “nomadic individual.”
Lightheart explained that the vision quest, which happened sometime in 2015 entailed going out into the wilderness while fasting without food or water. He stayed in one small space on a sleeping bag while praying, singing songs and meditating until he received the vision that gave him his new name.
“I was feeling like I had this callous that was formed around my heart,” said Lightheart. “When I was growing up I felt like I had a petrified heart, like it was impenetrable because I just felt like I wasn’t receiving love.”
“The morning comes and I’m sitting there in my space and I’m singing this song over and over again until I went into this trance and I started lucid dreaming.” Lightheart said he began to hear a voice chanting the “Om” sound with his first name, Errin.
“It was soothing, like a woman, like my mother,” Lightheart explained that he wasn’t sure if the voice was his mother, or another maternal ancestor. He said that the voice’s chanting gave him a feeling of approval.
“The ‘Om’ kept repeating until I felt like my heart was shattered,” said Lightheart. “I sat down and this hummingbird flew by me and it was like, ‘your heart is lighter, you’re Lightheart now.’”
In addition to his massive body of work, Lightheart also received his Bachelor’s degree in general studies from Oakland University, and his Master’s degree in arts and education from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville Tenn.
“Chaos is the things that look crazy, that you need to pay attention to. I like to go deep into my mind and find the things that are overlooked and try to bring them to life,” Lightheart explained the primary influence for his works include abstract symbols, images of the human form, and romantic couples.
The fourth floor artists are opening their studio doors for the public on April 17 from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M.
The Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s (JET) production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” is giving students a chance to see her brought to life at matinee performances held at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.
Based on Anne Frank’s personal diary chronicling her life and thoughts as she and her family hid from the Nazis during WWII, this production focuses on Frank’s relationships with the other inhabitants of the annex of her father’s office, and highlights the struggle she felt to be heard as a young woman.
Taylor Morrow, of Warren, Michigan who is playing the role of Anne for a third year, said that the long rehearsals in the beginning were more focused on learning and understanding, but now her perspective on the role has shifted.
“I was really focusing on her youthful bravery this year,” said Morrow.
The actors had just two weeks of rehearsals before performances began, as most of them have performed in these roles before. Linda Ramsay who plays Edith Frank, Anne’s mother, has been in her role for seven consecutive years.
“You’re able to stop thinking and just live there and notice,” said Fred Buchalter who plays Mr. Van Daan and has been in his role for three years. Many of the actors said knowing these roles so well gives them a chance to explore them further. Mike Suchyta, who plays Peter Van Daan, said this year he has been able to develop his relationship to Otto Frank, Anne’s father, as an adult male role model.
“I think my role in the show is very much the idea of hope,” Morrow said. She thought Anne, as the youngest inhabitant of the annex, is a symbol of the whole family’s desire to have a happy ending, “my job is to show that it wasn’t all bad … there was fun, there was joy.”
The set design by Peggie Marshall-Admunsen was limited to a defined space in a small portion of center stage. Cast members ceremoniously placed white tape around the minimal furniture to represent the incredibly confined quarters shared by eight people for over two years. The actors conveyed internal personal struggle, growth, and intimate relationships that developed while their characters hid for their lives. Anne’s personal journey as portrayed by Morrow incited a sense of hope, joy, and love that transcends adolescence and speaks to the child in all of us who wishes to be heard.
This is the 23rd consecutive year the JET has produced “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
“There has never been another theater that has produced it continuously for this length of time,” said Henrietta Hermelin-Weinberg, a co-founder of the JET.
The show will be moving from the Berman Center for the Performing Arts to the Detroit Film Theater of the Detroit Institute of Arts, on March eighth. Student matinees at the DIA will continue through the 16th of March. A public performance at the DIA will be held on Sunday, March 11, at 7p.m. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Jewish Ensemble Box Office at 248-788-2900 at $12 for children and $18 for adults.
In the past few weeks in my photojournalism class with Lori King, I’ve been learning more about the controls of my DSLR, a Nikon 7100.
I got a chance to further explore my camera’s manual and understand more thoroughly the location of my options for managing the controls.
A good portion of these lessons were a review for me, specifically the understanding of the basic functions of shutter speed and aperture, and knowing how to use a camera meter. The combination of the different stops of light using ISO shutter speed, and aperture create reciprocity. We went through the numbers that are standard for ISO, shutter speed, which controls motion and light, aperture, which controls depth of field. Explaining some of these things to my classmates also helped me solidify some of the concepts more.
I have a lot of practice using my camera on aperture or shutter speed priority setting, but not as much on manual. It’s been challenging controlling both the shutter speed and aperture to properly expose images, rather than just choosing an f-stop of shutter speed as you would on one of the priority settings. Starting a shoot in manual made for a bit more time metering and preparing than I’m used to. In my artistic photography, I generally work with the lowest ISO possible because I have always preferred the look of soft light in my shots, so avoiding that was a big change for me. What I found most challenging was using the controls to create a specific outcome, namely our panned and blurred action shots. I usually fight against seeing much motion in my images, as I despise the lack of control I feel I have over the full image. I struggled to take these shots in any higher light atmosphere, so I decided to attempt to tackle them at night.
Overall, the last few weeks have forced me to get more comfortable using my camera but also has given me a chance to reflect on the value of images in journalism and practice my artistic instinct in capturing a photo. It was hard for me to present any images that I didn’t find composed completely to my liking, so taking and choosing these shots took me quite a while.
Wide Depth of Field-
Shallow Depth of Field-
Stopped Motion –
Panned Motion –
Blurred Motion –
Law of Thirds –
Reflection (graphic element of choice) –
Wayne State University’s Production of The Colored Museum recognizes both progress and enduring issues
Wayne State University’s production of “The Colored Museum” at the Hilberry Theatre began Black History month with an exploration of African-American identity and culture. On Feb. 16, the director and cast offered an opportunity to discuss these topics at the talk‐back after the performance.
The locations and times of the play’s scenes were communicated by projected images on a background of panels which moved in order to allow the cast to enter and exit scenes. The projections, designed by Assistant Professor Sarah Pearline included African-American music artists, Harlem in the 1980s, and Civil Rights Movement protests.
During the Feb. 16 talk‐back, actors said they had received a variety of responses from audiences, including both laughs and gasps during controversial moments in the show.
“I am loving my cast … all of them are wonderful, they’re hardworking creative artists,” said director Billicia Hines, assistant professor and director of the Black Theatre Program. Hines said her cast, comprised mostly of graduate students, had a four-week rehearsal process, which began at the end of December 2017. Hines said the show uses satire to portray sensitive material, like slavery, in a way the audience can receive more easily.
“My ancestors were enslaved … It’s my history,” Hines said.
“Black history is American history, and they try to separate it.” She stated that she would like to see more African-American history taught in schools and expressed the need for a space in which to discuss the topic of race. “Theater is that form where we can come together with all races and discuss things.”
Graduate Student and cast member Breayare Tender said the show is still relevant, although it was written in 1986 by George C. Wolfe.
“A lot of the things it talks about have not changed,” said Tender.
She said issues confronting African-Americans like the Civil Rights Movement are not over, but have new “faces,” like Black Lives Matter. She also recognized progress on subjects the show highlights, “The workplace is starting to allow African-Americans to wear their hair naturally to work … [they] used to be forced to perm their hair and do damaging things to it in order to be considered appropriately being groomed.”
Tender said she saw the show’s message as “a message to Americans overall, not just African-Americans,” about being inspired to move progressively forward by recognizing negative parts of history instead of throwing them away.
Ernest Bently is a member of the Actors’ Equity Union as well as a graduate student at WSU. Bently’s character, Miss Roj is in a club called “The Bottomless Pit” during her monologue about her experiences as a “Snap Queen.” Miss Roj describes herself as an “extraterrestrial …. placed on this earth to study the life habits of a deteriorating society.” Bently said he worked to feel that “alienation,” finding inspiration for the role watching “Paris Is Burning,” a movie chronicling New York’s drag scene in the 1980s.
Photographing the news has a natural slippery slope of turning from documentation to sensationalization. Every time a photographer takes a picture, they are literally “framing” an event, showing a visual perspective of what happened. If this is done improperly or distastefully, the real value of the image can be lost in commercial sensationalization or completely misrepresent a factual event. The New York Times reported last September that Facebook officials said they shut down hundreds of accounts believed to be created by a Russian company that bought ads and posted anti-Hillary Clinton messages during the American election campaign. Some argue that this heavily affected the outcome of the 2016 Elections. While framing happens in all forms of media, journalism is clearly supposed to convey truth.
The responsibility of the photojournalist is to portray a true event in a way that is useful to society. Legally, photographers may take pictures of anyone or anything from public property with few exceptions. When it comes to matter of disrupting privacy, it is up to a photojournalist to work through the moral dilemma of sacrificing the feelings of the individuals involved for the greater good of society, without unnecessarily intruding. Documenting a sensitive event can and should be done with compassion and empathy and only when the event is justifiably important for the public to see. The National Press Photographers Association code of Ethics says that employing ethical practices in photojournalism involve avoiding staged images as well. Visual journalists are trusted by the public to represent real events with their images- not manufactured ones.
Photojournalists have the opportunity to convey the truest depiction of events. In “Photojournalism The Professional’s Approach”, W. Eugene Smith, a Life magazine photographer was quoted in 1948 as saying that photographers could be given “poetic license” by rearranging objects for a shot. This was at one point a completely acceptable practice for photojournalists. Now, we ask when set-up is acceptable, or even necessary. Isn’t the point to show the event for what it is? The distortion that a photographer adds just by being present, without active involvement is enough to affect behavior in others. The effect of the photographer depends on the story being told by the image.
When gruesome or emotionally conflicting images with depictions of suicide and death come into play, photojournalists have an ethical dilemma. When a person contemplates suicide in front of another human, the seemingly clear choice is to talk them out of it or prevent it in some way. The question is in where the importance lies- the life of this person right now, or the effect of the documentation and dispersion of this event for society. Editors often make final decisions on whether or not an image will be dispersed, and in that decision the impact of the message must be assessed. A photograph can be incredibly powerful for the wrong reasons, like shocking and distracting readers. Just because a picture is grotesque or intense doesn’t make it relevant. Utilitarian ethical practices in journalism that focus on providing information that is critical to our society is the responsibility of visual journalists.
Over my winter break I got the opportunity to visit New York City for the first time. I stayed in Midtown Manhattan on 31st street. My hotel room was modest, but I couldn’t have been happier with my incredible view of the Empire State Building. Most of the time I could hardly even believe I was there.
Manhattan was less intimidating than I had expected it to be. Leading up to my visit, a number of people commented on the congestion and cramped buildings as claustrophobia inducing; that they could see visiting but could never live there. Nothing about Manhattan struck me as compact or uncomfortable- just FULL of adventure and opportunities. It likely had something to do with the cold temperatures that week, but the hotel room on 31st street was quieter than my apartment in New Center, Detroit. Even with people rushing about to their respective activities, the parts of Midtown Manhattan that I witnessed had a calm and easy vibe. The streets were also broader and cleaner than I had anticipated and I adored the charming, tiered, early skyscrapers built that way to allow sunlight into the city.
I caught on to the subway system quickly and reveled in popping on to get anywhere I wanted to go.
I did an incredible number things in just a few days in Manhattan. Being a total sentimentalist- I even stopped by Tiffany to read the letter Audrey Hepburn wrote to the staff after her film Breakfast At Tiffany’s wrapped filming in 1961.
I spent my Christmas Eve in Greenwich Village.
I spent Christmas day eating the best hot and sour soup ever at Big Wong in Chinatown.
I stopped by the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.
I meandered through Central Park.
I visited the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Visiting art museums is a pastime of mine. I frequently visit the DIA here in Detroit, visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few times when I lived on the east coast, and grew up going to the Art Institute of Chicago.
I’m always looking for the classic paintings by impressionists like Picasso, Monet, and Gauguin, that I grew up admiring in art books I would pick up in the library. In New York, I gasped when I recognized certain artists in the permanent collection as if I were recognizing an old friend- perhaps in contrast to the unfamiliar modern art that filled the main gallery of the Guggenheim.
I even entered the lottery to see my favorite Broadway show Wicked, but didn’t win. Just wandering around the theater district held ridiculous thrills for me, like seeing Bette Midler’s name in lights at Hello, Dolly!, right next to the Music Box theater where I got to attend my first show on Broadway- Dear Evan Hansen. I’ll review the show in an upcoming blog post, but just like the rest of my trip- I enjoyed it immensely.
I felt like I barely even got a taste of this colossal city, and after such a wonderful rendezvous I’m dying to go back and have another go at Manhattan. I never realized before this year how much of a city-girl I am. Maybe the city of all cities will be the place for me someday. But until then, my comforting, little, (but growing!) Detroit skyline will be more than satisfactory to call home.
*This is an opinion piece I wrote before I had been asked to join the CFPCA’ Dean’s Delegate program last semester.
On Tuesday October 3rd, I was invited by my professor, Dr. Hayg Oshagan, to join him at a town hall meeting event at the Byblos Banquet center in Dearborn for the online publication Huffpost’s “Listen to America” road trip, presented in partnership with the Arab American News (AAN), Dearborn’s weekly newspaper. Dr. Oshagan teaches my mass communications course at Wayne State University. This was a very exciting opportunity for me as a brand new transfer student of journalism and communication studies, and as a complete newcomer to the southeast side of Michigan.
The stated reason for Huffpost’s seven-week-long tour of 25 cities in the heart of America is “to respond to the major criticism that national media was not listening to middle America,” as explained by Huffpost writer Rowaida Abdelaziz during opening remarks, and the perception “that the coastal cities had a very different perspective of what was happening in this country.” This series of events offers a platform for residents in the heart of the United States to speak about their experiences and their perspectives on what is happening in their communities. In the 11 cities visited before arriving in metro Detroit, Huffpost’s “Listen To America” has offered a great variety of Americans the opportunity to share their stories.
The tour by Huffpost is more than pertinent now, since the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, when so many marginalized American citizens feel silenced by the leaders of our country. Even before winning the election, the president made blanket statements against immigrants, Latinos, and Muslims. Since Trump’s election, incidents involving racism and even violence directed at these groups have been on the rise. A recent example is the attack on counter-protesters at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA. The president has signed executive orders for multiple travel bans always aimed at Muslim-majority countries, and has discontinued the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protected children brought to the country illegally by their parents. Actions like these justifiably inspire fear in these ethnic minority communities across the country.
“America is listening, so we better talk.” Osama Siblani, publisher and founder of Arab American News, and the event’s moderator, stated in his opening remarks. “Now we have an opportunity to let America hear our concerns.”
Often viewed as the nation’s Arab American capital, Dearborn is home to the highest concentration of Muslims in the United States. By choosing to include Dearborn, Huffpost gave an opportunity to these citizens to open up about the harm that has been inflicted upon their community since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The staffs of Huffpost and AAN also partnered to write an article published on Huffpost, the AAN, website and in Saturday’s AAN paper. The article outlines the issues highlighted by the panel. Specifically, the article stated that Dearborn- population of 65,000 has the second highest number of people on the terror watch list after New York City, population of 8 million. Among the key sources for this article was Nassar Baydoun, president of the American Civil Rights League. Baydoun also spoke at the town hall meeting Tuesday, “They would take you into a room, make you give them all your electronics and all your passwords, give them your credit cards and all your documents.” he explained the extreme process he has to go through every time he travels because he is on the watch list. “After about three or four hours they would call Washington and they’d get clearance to release you. … This was every single time. I got to know the agents, I got to know the supervisors but they could not do anything because you are on that list. They have to follow the protocol.”
One of the panel speakers, Fadwa Hammoud, trustee of Dearborn’s board of education, and Wayne country prosecutor, told her own story of coming to the United States as an 11-year-old immigrant, who didn’t speak English, “When I came here I saw everything that was beautiful about this country.” she said. Despite her love for America, she is concerned for the Muslim students of Dearborn who face threats and discrimination from members of their own regional community. “Our students are constantly on the defensive, they live in an unfair world where they have to answer for the actions for a few extremists. … They know that after the Las Vegas shooting, no white child would have to answer those difficult questions for the over 60 year old white male’s actions.”
People in various positions in their community, many of them immigrants, attended the event and shared personal stories of the discrimination they have faced and witnessed. Dave Abdallah, one of the top realtors in the United States, who immigrated from Lebanon when he was nine years old, talked about the pride and love his family has for this country, where they found freedom and rights that they didn’t have in their home country. In his work as a realtor, Abdallah has heard many comments from people wanting to leave the Dearborn area to get away from the Arab and Muslim population. “They’re listening to the wrong media outlets that put that type of an image of an Arab American and of a Muslim, and that’s not who we are.” One young man who arrived at the event accidentally, spoke about the need to celebrate each other’s differences and supporting other’s voices.
Before moving to metro Detroit, I had not been aware that nearly half of Dearborn’s population is made up of Arab Americans, as Siblani stated in his remarks. However I was aware of discrimination against Arab Americans from reports in the news media. Hearing so many of Dearborn residents’ personal experiences with discrimination was overwhelming. Growing up on the west side of the state, in a mostly white community, I was nearly completely ignorant of the amount of diversity that exists in the metro Detroit area. One of the biggest reasons I decided to study at WSU was to have the opportunity to meet people with stories vastly different from my own. I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to learn more about the trials faced by different ethnic groups in my own home state. Any student would be lucky to attend such an eye-opening event and hear people’s personal stories firsthand. Huffpost’s “Listen to America” tour was the perfect first event for an aspiring journalism student, because there is nothing more important than listening to and raising the voices of individuals who are often alienated from important conversations. Communicating about the issues we face is the only way to see progress in our communities and our country as a whole.