Talking Photojournalism with Mary Knox Merrill

Mary Knox Merrill came into our class to talk with us about photojournalism and what it means to truly take a great picture. Merrill is a Staff Photographer and the Associate Director of Multimedia Communications here at Northeastern. Additionally she spent over five years shooting for the Christian Science Monitor as a staff photographer where she was given the opportunity to travel the world and take photographs that appeared in Time Magazine and the New York Times.

While I have heard throughout my journalism classes that a good photographer can capture the scene, tell a story and grab the readers attention, I have never been shown how to accomplish that. Mary Knox was there with a plan to show us how.

She set up a scenario that she experiences on a daily basis in her job, to take a staff photograph of our professor, Dan Kennedy. Merrill first set up the scene as an amateur photographer (such as myself) would have done. She stood Kennedy against a wall, put the camera in front of his face and snapped the picture at eye level. This was not the way you take an interesting picture, she explained to us. There were so many opportunities and background images to bring in that would tell Kennedy’s story better.

She then repositioned Kennedy in front of his seated students. Instead of focusing at an eye-level angle, she stood up on a chair and took a wide-angle shot of Kennedy and his students. It really got me thinking about angles and background, and their importance in storytelling.

As I began taking pictures for my project I continued to think about angles. I took shots from the top of the bleachers, from the ground staring up at the huddle and from behind the goal. The variety these angles added to my photographs really helped tell the story and hopefully keep the viewers attention.


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