october 08–Virtual DC
On October 8 we met with Kelly Jo Smart. An RIT alumna, she was able to share with us her story of how she made it through college to end up working for the Obama Foundation.
Much like my classmate Jackie, Kelly Jo found that she enjoyed working with stills and editing the work of her peers. And, much like myself and my other classmates, she didn’t really have a path she was determined to follow after graduation. She decided that she was interested in politics after seeking out an internship at the White House, where she started under the Obama Administration. She shared with us that she actually denied a position offered by Pete Souza in the photography department, choosing to stay in digital strategy as an assistant in order to challenge herself and grow in a different field. That mindset surprised me, and I’m inspired by her self-control and awareness of what would help her succeed.
She eventually ended up as an editor for the Obama Foundation. She refuted the rumor that you’re “not employable” after working at the White House, which is reassuring to someone like me who didn’t even know that was a concern. The Obama Foundation is obviously named after and founded upon the principles of President Obama, but the organization is technically non-partisan and not politically affiliated. The media coverage does its best to cover current news topics without doing traditional reportage, to continue to engage in the news cycle without being a source for infomation. Kelly Jo works remotely, working to build the visual image for the organization by hiring freelancers and editing their pictures that cover the influence of the organization both nationally and internationally.
Her advice for us as photographers was great! To shoot everything, and get a variety of shots, but don’t go crazy. Our job isn’t to be papparazzi. Also to do the best that we can, and not to tell our editor the “labor pains”. As long as we get the photos required by our assignment, it doesn’t matter what went wrong. A big question I had was about personal political views. I’ve been told before that you won’t be hired in DC or to cover any politics if anyone in your life knows your personal beliefs. She explained that it’s hard to connect with a certain person or organization sometimes if you outwardly share your political views; how can an editor be sure that you can work for someone you disagree with? She also advised us to stay connected to each other as classmates, which is something I hope we will do.
I’d love to follow a similar path as Kelly Jo Smart one day, working in politics the way I’ve been aspiring towards but also gaining experience and learning elsewhere. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about her experiences and to speak with her.