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Alumni profile: John West, documentary photojournalist

Thursday, July 07, 2011
Photojournalism alum John West . | Photo by John West
Self-portrait by John West

Meet John West

Degree and major: B.A. in photojournalism
Graduation Year: 2007
Current job: Documentary Photojournalist at John West Photography LLC
Hometown: Born in Augsburg, Germany, but grew up all over the world
Now Living In: Cary, N.C.

Why did you choose to attend Point Park?

I chose to attend Point Park University to broaden my understanding of photojournalism. Point Park offered courses that were well rounded in the fields of photojournalism, photography and print journalism, while at the same time delivering a core understanding of the professional standards in these related fields. None of the other universities in the Pittsburgh area offered such a complete, knowledgeable program in photojournalism with the tools and instructors to compliment the work you were studying. Most of the instructors were veterans or were still working in the field, and I found that knowledge an indispensable resource.

How did Point Park help you with your career?

Point Park helped me with my photojournalism career in several ways. The University helped lay a foundation of study that I still reference and use every day when I am out doing assignments, documentary work or in just engaging the public. In photojournalism, ethics, determination and a body of work are the keys to success. Point Park help me understand and relay those traits into a strong work ethic that helps me achieve and exceed the expectations of my clients and the people who surround me. A carefully chosen course load that complemented my skills, and the instructors I worked closely with, helped shape my initial drive to get me to where I am in my career today. The foundational knowledge that I learned at Point Park is a vital tool in my toolbox that I can go back to again and again.

What was one of your favorite experiences while at Point Park?

The experience I enjoyed most at Point Park University was when we had a chance to work with the Three Rivers Adoption Council and the Pittsburgh Heart Gallery capturing portraits of children who were in need of a loving family that would adopt them. This was a moment in my photography career where I had a chance to give back and help with something I believed in. Through my skills in photography, I had a chance to help a child find security, love and a home that all children deserve. It was a memorable, wonderful experience.

What advice do you have for students considering a career in photojournalism?

For students seeking a career in photojournalism, I have some key advice. Be flexible in your education and career. Always be open to learning new things and the various ways to apply the things you have learned to your career. Find a good mentor who is positive and seasoned, who can show you a good career path and the right steps to take from the mistakes he or she has made and the things he or she has learned. Saying that, learn from your mistakes and try new things. You will become a better photojournalist if you can recognize and educate yourself from those mistakes. You only miss 100 percent of the chances you don’t take. If you don’t try, you don’t succeed. Finally, be prepared to make changes and be open to criticism, all of which will make you a better photojournalist and define your style of photography, video or multimedia.

What is your favorite thing about your current career?

My absolute favorite thing about my current job is the amount of time I can spend outside. Since I mostly do documentary work now, the outside world has become my predominant studio. I don’t like to be cooped up inside an office or studio if I can help it. Being outside is a plus. The people and cultures I meet and the places I travel are the things I find fascinating and interesting. This is a wonderful experience that is helping me to grow as a person and as a documentary photojournalist.

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