Maddie Meyer is a sophomore photojournalism student from Arlington, Virginia, currently studying at Ohio University. Before completing an internship at The Hill, she also worked for the Connection Newspapers in Maryland and Virginia.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduces his “Back in Black” plan to propose to congress in order to make cuts from government organizations to save the United States credit rating on July 18, 2011. Photo by Maddie Meyer

During my internship at The Hill in Washington, D.C., I got the chance to see what it was like to work as a political photographer on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Every morning I would wake up to an email from my editor with a list of assignments for the day. It was usually a list of between 4 and 7 items in the city, most of which were on the Capitol “Campus”. I took the Metro into the city around 7:30, and left after the day’s events were over, typically between 4 or 5.

Who was your supervisor or mentor?  What did you learn from that person?
My photo editor at the Hill, Greg Nash, was a great support during my time as an intern. Working on the Hill was challenging for me; I was often competing for the shots as people who have been working there for decades. Greg was able to teach me the procedures for various events and helped me navigate through the different buildings, which was more of a challenge than I expected.

Staff members attend a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Full hearing on “Consumer Financial Protection Efforts” on Capitol Hill July 14, 2011. Photo by Maddie Meyer

Describe the environment/dynamic of the photo department.
Greg is not only the photo editor but also the sole full time photographer for the Hill, which keeps him very busy. We had a good relationship because I knew exactly who to talk to about what the paper needed. One of the reasons I really enjoyed working in D.C. this summer was the fact that I got to work alongside  so many talented photographers from different publications. In the Senate side of the Capitol there is a photo office where photographers gather to use the internet, file their photos, eat lunch, and talk to one another. This was a great chance for me to sit alongside photographers from AP, Getty, the New York Times, and The Washington Post on a daily basis. Everyone was really friendly, and I picked up invaluable advice from an amazing group of professionals.

What was your favorite assignment and why?
It’s tough to pick a favorite assignment, but I really enjoyed when Stephen Colbert came to the city to get his Super PAC approved. This is where I made my favorite photo of my internship. It was a great way to take a break from the debt ceiling battles and get a front row seat to what felt like an episode of the Colbert Report.

What was the most important thing you learned?
The most important thing I learned this summer was the importance of being an informed journalist. It was vital for me to understand current events, bills coming through congress, and the key people involved in each story. I found the most successful photographers were those that were the most informed, and they were the ones who were best able to anticipate for the photo they needed to accurately portray the mood of an event or situation.

Comedian Stephen Colbert grabs donations from supporters following his meeting with the Federal Election Commission in which his “Super PAC” was approve July 29. Photo by Maddie Meyer

What’s the best part about this internship? What’s the most difficult part about this internship?
The best part of my internship was getting to meet so many talented photographers and watching them work. It was really valuable to me to see photographers shoot then see their work in newspapers or online and know how they did it. Though there may be as many as 15 or 20 photographers at some of the larger events, it was really interesting to see how different each person’s results were. The most challenging aspect of this internship was photographing the same situation in different ways each week. There were events that took place weekly, and rooms I would work in almost daily, so my creativity was definitely put to the test.

Did you set a goal for your internship?
My goal for my internship was to see if I wanted to pursue a career photographing politics. Though I think I have a lot to learn before I decide what or where I’d like to spend my career, I loved my time in Washington. As a bit of a history buff, there was nothing cooler than walking into the Capitol building for work every morning. The energy of Capitol Hill was an amazing environment to work in; it was really interesting to see all of the congressmen, senators, and their staff at work. Being able to observe the men and women responsible for making such large decisions that affect millions of Americans was something I felt lucky to see, and it gave me insight into how the country runs. I got hooked on covering national news, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to return to Washington in the future.

Describe your personal and professional growth during the internship.
During my internship I became a lot more resourceful and responsible as a photographer. There were days where I would be running from place to place from 9 to 3 and wouldn’t have a minute to stop and eat until 4 after I filed my photos. I had to assess situations quickly, make decisions about how much time to spend at each assignment, determine who the key players were at each event, and scout out where to shoot from so I wouldn’t disrupt others around me if I had to slide out during an event. This was tough figure out at first, but after a few weeks I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) speaks with reporters in the Capitol before a press conference on June 23, 2011 regarding his disappointment with the President's plan to remove 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Many democrats thought the plan, which projected a withdrawal of 30,000 troops by the end of fall 2012, wouldn't be aggressive enough to make serious progress to end the war. Photo by Maddie Meyer

Was it a paid internship?
My internship was not paid. To try and cover my costs of metro fees and food, I photographed swim and dive meets on Saturdays and sold the photos to parents. It was also nice getting some time outside and photographing sports.

What helped you get the internship?
Last summer I was lucky enough to assist New York Times photographer Doug Mills at the White House through a program at my high school. After attending a few events I was hooked and I knew that I wanted to try something on my own this summer. I applied to the Hill noting my past experience, along with some of my work from my first year of classes at Ohio University.

What will you do next?
Right now I’m really excited to be back at Ohio University for my sophomore year. I don’t have any solid plans yet for this coming summer, but I would love to photograph the campaign. I’m looking for another internship this summer, likely outside of the D.C. area.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think an internship is DC is something every photographer should keep an open mind about. From my time on the Hill I learned a lot about photography, our government, and photojournalism as a business. It was really helpful for me to be around so many talented photographers everyday, and its an experience I wish all of my friends at OU could share with me.

Follow this link to apply for an internship at The Hill and please contact Greg Nash (greg.nash@thehill.com) for more information.