This is a new column featuring students and recent graduates who are working on interesting projects or doing cool things with photography. If you would like to recommend someone for this column, please email Maddie McGarvey at madd...@gmail.com

 

Meg Roussos is a junior photojournalism student at Ohio University. Last spring she completed her project called The Refuge about a family living simplistically inside a school bus. The story is about one family’s relationship with the land and with one another. Last summer she interned at the San Diego Union Tribune, and this past fall at, The Palm Beach Post. She is currently located in Athens, Ohio, working towards her degree and doing freelance assignments.

 

In what ways do you hope to grow as a photographer?

Right now, I am just listening and learning, soaking as much in as I can before I graduate. After I complete school, I hope to grow more in my personal photography. I hope to look more into what photography means to me.  As a photographer, I am most excited about growing as a person, and where that path is going to lead me I couldn’t tell you.

Who has had the most profound impact on you as a mentor?

All the grad students from the past couple years have impacted me in so many ways. I would have to say with my most recent project from Soul of Athens from last year, Andrea Morales, Dania Maxwell, and Sue Morrow. They helped me think more deeply about my story and the reasoning behind certain images.  They have helped me grow personally and professionally.

What is the most rewarding assignment/project you’ve worked on thus far?

The Refuge, which is the first and only bigger project I have created so far. It has been rewarding to see the different stages of my project’s progress and then put it together in such a short amount of time.

What is unique about the school you attend?

There are many great photojournalism schools, but there are a couple of things that I feel make Ohio University unique. The undergraduate degree front-loads photo courses to make sure you are taking a photo classes the every first quarter you come to school. I think that is very beneficial for students to get involved from the beginning. Having a graduate program is something that I have always liked. A lot of my good friends from school were/are in the graduate program, and it gives the school a wide variety of community building within the program.

What advice do you have for someone who is just starting school and what questions would you most like guidance on?

Take pictures. You aren’t going to create any cool pictures by just thinking about ideas. Go outside, talk to people and be a part of the community you live in. The best pictures you will produce are ones where you are just wandering around, explore something new, or assigning yourself to go shoot

Please tell us about this project (The Refuge):

This project is about a family of five living inside a school bus. The parents, More Smiles and Space Cadet, gathered everything they had, including their three sons, Forest, Eli, and Simon and moved across the country from California to Ohio. They live in 20 acres of a dense forest filled with natural springs, deer, and a simple school bus. There is no running water or electricity. Forest, 13, attends public schooling, while Eli, 11, and Simon, 9, are still home-schooled by Space. Their simple lifestyle reflects their desire to preserve the land and live a slow-paced life. They want to try to provide a place for everyone in need to come and feel welcome. The land’s name is The Refuge. Their vision of providing a place for shelter and rest shapes their daily lives.  This story is about one family’s relationship with the land and with one another. It was initially just a personal project I was shooting outside of school. Then last spring when our annual Soul of Athens project started, I felt this would tie right into the theme we had for the year.

How did you meet this family?

I met this family when I was working on a story about someone with bipolar disorder. He would hang out with other people dealing with mental disabilities at The Gathering Place in Athens. I became friends with one of the volunteers named Julie and we would talk about our interests like the Rainbow Gathering, the outdoors, and Athens. One afternoon as we were both leaving she mentioned she had to pick her daughter up from her friends, Smiles and Space’s. Unknowing if these were people’s names, she further explained that they were working on getting their school bus ready for the up coming winter, and I blatantly said, “I need to meet them.” I had to wait for access and trust from the family, and then the rest is history.

How much time did you spend with them?

The end of fall my sophomore year was when I first met the Welch family, and I wasn’t photographing them for any class, rather as a personal project. I would spend time as much as I could with them, but having a full course load on top of other involvements at school, made it hard to get out there. But last spring, I decided to use their story for our student project, Soul of Athens, which allowed me to get out to their land multiple times a week.

What’s been your biggest challenge when working on this story?

Being patient for the story to development was challenging. It was hard knowing what I wanted to say about this family in the beginning. I had to remind myself, that I knew a story was there, and to be patient for it to unravel.

What’s been most rewarding?

There have been so many things that have been rewarding, but if I had to pick one thing to say the most rewarding would be creating a relationship with this family I will keep in touch with for a lifetime. They have become my second family in Athens, and yes I have them to thank for giving me the opportunity to learn how to create my first multimedia piece, and yes I have this family to thank for winning my first award with photography. But I have created a relationship with an awesome family and that to me is what is most rewarding.

 

To suggest a student or recent graduate for the Emerging Talent series, email Maddie at madd...@gmail.com