by Jillian Atelsek
A large number of students came to Philip Merrill College of Journalism for a panel on women in photojournalism Tuesday night, falling on the eve of International Women’s Day. The event was co-hosted by the UMD Chapter of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and the Women Photographers of Washington (WPOW).
Allison Shelley and Laura Pohl, two members of WPOW, attended the event to present their portfolios to students, discuss their careers and explain the importance of diversifying the field of photography.
Both Shelley and Pohl are accomplished photojournalists who have photographed all over the world and have had their works published in prestigious sources, including The New York Times and NPR. While Shelley is a freelancer whose work focuses mainly on women’s health, Pohl is more focused on working with non-governmental and nonprofit organizations.
“I am the kind of person that when someone tells me that I cannot do something or that it’s going to be very difficult, I want to do it even more,” Pohl said to the students in attendance. She explained how when she first developed an interest in photography, she was met with doubt from male colleagues who were unsure if a woman was capable of the job, which was one part of what fueled her to attend graduate school and become an accomplished photographer.
Shelley expressed a broad desire to support and promote women in photojournalism.
“I’m sorry, but we don’t need a lot more ‘white dudes’ trying to represent who we are,” Shelley said with a laugh. “I mean, look around this room! We are of all colors and types. That needs to be reflected in journalism.”
Carly Kempler, a junior broadcast journalism major and member of NPPA, was instrumental in organizing the event. She described Shelley and Pohl as “two incredible women,” saying, “we thought it would be a great experience for students at Merrill to come out and hear what they have to say and learn more about them and the opportunities that [the students] have in this area.”
“NPPA isn’t one of the biggest clubs in the journalism school or on campus…so the fact that almost every chair was filled is awesome,” said Alexandra Simon, a senior broadcast journalism and history double major who assisted Kempler in putting the evening together. “I think it’s great that there were a lot of young women here to learn from women in the industry.”
Emily Kallmyer, another senior broadcast journalism major, described the event as “inspiring.”
“I hope one day to be covering stories similar to [Shelley and Pohl], so this was kind of cool,” Kallmyer said.
Both Shelley and Pohl provided advice to students such as Kallmyer who hoped to pursue a career in photojournalism. They gave insight into the importance of internships and resumes, but also commented on broader values that would foster a successful career.
“One thing I like to focus on in my photography is that we’re all more alike than not alike around the world,” Pohl said. “Be open to wherever your career takes you.”