Ryan Young is originally from Toledo, Ohio and is now a senior studying photojournalism at Ohio University. Aside from recently completing his internship at the Grand Rapids Press he has also completed an internship with The Elkhart Truth in Indiana. His work has been recognized by College Photographer of the Year, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, and the National Press Photographers Association.

Mitchell Peterson, of East Grand Rapids, plays a practice match at Orchard Hills Swim and Sports Club on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Peterson will be the first player from Grand Rapids to compete in the USTA Boys National Championship in Kalamazoo since 2002. Photo by Ryan Young

How was your internship structured?
My internship at the Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan was structured like a lot of other internships are. I was treated as just another member of the staff and given anywhere between one big assignment to four small assignments a day.

Who was your supervisor or mentor?  What did you learn from that person?
My photo editor, Chris Clark, does a great job of keeping the photo department organized and making sure everything runs smoothly.  One thing Chris was always reinforcing to me was the importance of being both a journalist and a photographer.  I sometimes tend to get caught up in visual aesthetics, so it was good to have someone reminding me to get good information as well.

What was your favorite assignment and why?
I got into photography because I’m a huge sports guy, but alas, I lack any real athletic ability. I figured that while I’ll never be able to make money on the field, I can still make a living on the sidelines.   So, my favorite assignments are always sports related ones, it doesn’t matter if it’s professional, college, prep, or two kids playing with a ball, as long as people are keeping score, I’m gonna be happy.  I feel like no matter what, there’s always potential to get great shots at a sports assignment, they’re dud-proof.  So while there’s usually not as many sports assignments during the summer, there were enough to keep me sane.  I especially loved West Michigan Whitecaps games (a single A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) because there was almost always some great little quirky thing going on that you wouldn’t be able to find at major league games (and great media food, to top it all off).

Sarah Barker, a volunteer for WMEAC gets dunked in a water tank as her son Hunter Vanderlaan, 6, foreground, tries to avoid getting splashed by the water at the Great Lakes Water Festival on Sunday, June 26, 2011. Photo by Ryan Young

What was the most important thing you learned?
Like I said earlier, having the importance of being a good journalist constantly be reinforced was probably the most important lesson I’ll take away from this summer.

What’s the best part about this internship? What’s the most difficult part about this internship?
The best part about West Michigan is that there is a lot of variety in the area, so there’s a lot of variety in assignments.  One day I was shooting Ludacris and T-Pain at a music festival in downtown Grand Rapids, the next a high school football team practicing in an overgrown field in the middle of the country, and the next day feature hunting on the shores of Lake Michigan.  That being said, like with many of newspapers, there are definitely some assignments where you get there and you think to yourself, “How in the world am I supposed to make something interesting out of this?”  Assignments like that always push your creativity and really force you to push boundaries and never give up on trying to come back with something visually interesting.  However, after doing two newspaper internships, I’ve learned that you can never discount any assignment, and that as long as you’re shooting you have the opportunity to get a “portfolio shot.”

One of my favorite shots from this summer came from a small festival that happened on a sunny day at high noon where there was maybe about 20 people total in attendance, most of whom were just listening to a band play quietly.  Sounds exciting, huh?  I was really about to give up after getting a few boring shots of the band and the “crowd”, but then I found one of those dunking booths hidden away behind one of the little booths and a group of about 4 or 5 kids playing around with dunking one of the older volunteers.  I walked up asked if I could take a few pictures, and maybe made 20 frames, but of those 20 frames I got something that I wasn’t expecting, a photo from a small, boring festival in the middle of the day that was worth hanging on to.

Kaitlyn Smith is consoled by close friend Steve James as Smith's daughter Makayla Smith, 7, looks on during a moment of prayer at the candlelight vigil held for victims of the July 7th murdering spree in Grand Rapids. "They were like a second family to me" said Kaitlyn of the Emkens family who lost Kimberlee Emkens, one of Kaitlyn's best friends, Amanda Emkens and Marissa Emkens. Photo by Ryan Young

Describe your personal and professional growth during the internship.
During the summer I had a lot of time to reflect about what I really wanted to do when I graduate from OU.  I realized that I’m not sure if the newspaper industry is necessarily for me.  During the summer in Grand Rapids, there was a man who went on a murdering spree and killed seven people and then eventually himself after leading police on an all day manhunt/chase.  This was big breaking news that received national attention.  However, covering that and then the ensuing events (funerals, visitations, vigils, etc) was kind of unnerving for me.  I know that these type of things need to be covered and it’s important for journalists to be there to tell these stories, but I just don’t know if I have the type of stomach, or courage, or brass (or whatever you want to call it) to make pictures of people when they’re going through such rough times.  It always amazes me that most people I’ve photographed in those situations were okay with it when I asked permission to take their pictures, because I don’t know if I would be okay with someone invading such a personal moment of my own or of someone I loved.

I know being a newspaper photographer is more than just shooting sprees and fatal car crashes, but it certainly is part of the job, and it’s a part of the job that I don’t really feel great about.  I have nothing but respect for people who are thick skinned enough to not let that type of stuff get to them, who, as Marty Lederhandler put it (in a recent AP story about photographers working at Ground Zero on 9/11) let the camera absorb the disaster and sadness of an event.  My camera is just not a great shield for me.  It’s not that I want to ignore that terrible things happen, I’ve just come to realize that I don’t want to have them be a constant part of my job.  So, in the future I’ve decided that I’d love to be able to focus more on sports photography (it’s the reason I became a photographer anyways) and immerse myself into that sporting niche as much as possible.

Was it a paid internship?
Fortunately, yes.

A Star Wars Clone Trooper hangs out with the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the visitor's dugout prior to the start of the West Michigan Whitecaps' game against the Bowling Green Hot Rods on Saturday, July 9, 2011. Saturday was Star Wars night at Fifth Third Ballpark. Photo by Ryan Young

What helped you get the internship?
My buddy and fellow Bobcat Joel Hawksley had the internship last summer and knocked it out of the park, so I think everyone at the Press was pretty confident in the abilities of kids coming out of OU, especially good looking studs (you’re welcome, Joelski) with sports heavy portfolios.

What will you do next?
I’m back in Athens trying to finish up my senior year and doing freelance gigs when I can.  After my senior year I’m gonna be looking for another, longer term internship, or (this is scary to say) look for a real job.  And as I said earlier, most likely explore ways to work my way more into the sports photography world.

The Grand Rapids Press usually posts internship opportunities on the NPPA Job Bank, but inquiries can be made to Chris Clark, 

Applications can be sent to The Grand Rapids Press
 Attn: Photo Desk 155 Michigan Ave. NW
 Grand Rapids, MI 49503