Here... Take This Gift: Is Black Friday Worth It?

For this photo story assignment, I found that I was able to obtain a great deal of content. I thought I would struggle to capture cohesive photos that showed a timeline of events. I chose to cover America’s famous holiday pastime- Black Friday shopping. I wanted to cover this issue because I do believe photojournalism can bring about change. With compelling stories and photos people can see an issue for what it is, or in the case of Black Friday what it is not. For this photo story I researched how other media have covered Black Friday and the strengths and weaknesses of their stories. The majority of the information I found was in relation to Black Friday sales and their effect on the economy and the effects of cyber Monday on the brick and mortars.

When creating this photo story, I based my content off of researching which stores would most likely have the most Black Friday shoppers. This assignment has enforced the significance of being prepared and trying to plan ahead for curveballs. This information has not only helped me in continuing photojournalism but in my day to day. For this assignment we were also tasked with interviewing subjects and adding audio. Interviewing skills can always be improved upon. Learning to work with tools like Photoshop and Audacity were challenging but thank goodness for Youtube. This assignment tested me in many ways but was a valuable learning tool. I was able to experience an event in which so many Americans participate and gain a perspective contrasting my own.

Black Friday. Across the U.S. Black Friday has become a phenomenon. Well known as the busiest shopping day of the year over 100 million people set out to stores in the 2017 season. Thirty percent of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas, writes, TheBalance.com. Why do so many of us participate in this frenzy of consumption. This year in 2018 many stores opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening. Many Americans chose to leave their homes and their families to stand hours in lines to purchase goods. It seems counterproductive to show someone how much to love them by leaving them to buy a “thing.” If time is our most precious resource, why are we spending a holiday standing in line at Walmart next to people we don’t know.

Do we need Black Friday? My answer is No. I think there are many items we choose to consume rather than need. Like many others I fall victim to catchy advertisements and attractive marketing, but I have to train myself to remember where my priorities lie. Which is with the people in my life. What would you gain if you chose to stay in during those Black Friday sales? Less stress, more time with family? For me these are worth not scoring that 99-cent poinsettia from Home Depot at 5 a.m. I don’t view shopping as criminal, but I do feel our holidays would be happier if we all focused more on the sentiment rather than the stuff.  

Facing a New Kind of Feature

This assignment taught me that feature stories are everywhere. It taught me the importance of being prepared as a photojournalist and if you aren’t it will most likely cost you the shot. In our age of constant contact and media photojournalists have several ways to stay informed. First by monitoring scanners and police reports photojournalists have the ability to hear about breaking news as it is happening and get to the story. A second form of news is the straightforward radio and television broadcasts, while radio and tv may seem old school in our hyper-digital age they can offer contact live coverage updates, letting a photojournalist know where to go. Taking advantage of social media twitter and Facebook are also valuable ways to stay alert of what is happening in the news locally and aboard. Lastly, good photojournalists know the benefit of obtaining and maintaining contacts in the field. Having contacts allows a photojournalist to get onsite information and stay ahead of the news.

This feature assignment allowed me to explore my community and taught me to look for stories in places I wouldn’t expect, such as stopping for vendors on the side of the road or staying more aware of local political events. I found that feature assignments are something I truly crave to create. I enjoy going below the surface of a story to where the substance lives. I also find myself gravitating toward feature stories when I am browsing news feeds or educating myself on current events. Feature stories allow for the reader to be entertained while subtly being made aware of an issue and I feel that is a powerful tool.

The night of Tuesday, November 6th, off of 8 Mile rd. in Ferndale, 11 p.m. after the polls closed, a billboard illuminates the sky, reminding citizens to vote.

The night of Tuesday, November 6th, off of 8 Mile rd. in Ferndale, 11 p.m. after the polls closed, a billboard illuminates the sky, reminding citizens to vote.

This all being said I found this assignment more challenging in ways I was not expecting. First, it was difficult for me to find events that I thought would be deemed newsworthy. I feel I sometimes fall into a mindset, “if it’s not catastrophic then it’s not news.” This thought process is a product of the news that I consume and that fact that most news we ingest is sensationalized. First I covered the November midterm elections. These elections were being highlighted across the country, on every news channel and I feel people are taking a more active role in politics. For my second feature, I was able to find a local event held in downtown Rochester celebrating the holiday season. I was apprehensive to photograph this event because it seemed to “happy” to me. After attending the event and walking among the hundreds of people in downtown Rochester, that night I realized there is great value in creating news of the joyous moments. Without documentation of family friendly, community events people may have a more tragic view of the world than they already do. I found this assignment challenging for a second reason, being it was difficult to speak to people at a crowded event and many people were shy or apprehensive to speak with me. While the challenges offered some obstacles it’s important to test your limits.

Along with forcing me out of my comfort zone this assignment taught me the benefit of waiting to get a shot. As a photojournalism student I have learned patience but especially with feature photography if you want to depict a well-rounded perspective of the event you have to have patience and capture moments that connect with your audience.