Jordan Stead is Seattle native and 2011 graduate of Western Washington University with a major in visual journalism and a minor in environmental studies. He has interned and been affiliated with such outlets as ZUMA Press, Seattle Magazine, The Bellingham Herald and The Skagit Valley Herald. His work is recognized by the National Press Photographers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, Scripps Howard and the Washington Press Association. Stead is also the co-founder of The Emerald Collective, a three-part visual production company. Aside from organizing the world into one rectangle at a time, Stead enjoys cold showers, hot vacations and temperate attitudes.
How was your internship structured?
The six-month internship was structured with the intern functioning as a full-time staffer extension to the photo department. I had Wednesdays and Sundays off, which I oddly enjoyed. The split weekend has always been that way (as far as I know) at The Daily Herald, but legend has it that it might be changed for future interns. The internship was paid.
Who was your supervisor or mentor? What did you learn from that person?
Mark Johnston – a jet-pilot-mechanic-turned-photographer-turned-photo-editor – was steering the ship for my time while in Utah. Just about the same time I was informed of my acquisition of the internship, Mark took the helm as editor. Both he and I began our new positions within weeks of each other, if memory serves me correctly. Mark was the editor a young photographer can only hope to get; a forward-thinking, creative, relaxed-yet-composed editor who is still passionate about the craft of photojournalism. The timing was perfect. At the tail end of my internship at The Skagit Valley Herald late last fall, I knew what I liked and didn’t like in my work, but isolating the good and disposing of the unsure was my weak point. I was on the cusp of a style I could finally call my own. My time in Utah with Mark’s advice and guidance helped to bridge that gap – a gap I believe to be one of the final steps a photographer must make before gaining the confidence to necessitate a life of strong images. Everything about my photography improved while at The Daily Herald. My sense for the lead image, the flow of a successful edit and the power to compromise a personal favorite for the most storytelling image became more acute. Even my toning got better.
Describe the environment/dynamic of the photo department.
What do you get when you mix a young editor with three even younger photographers and the freedom to do what we may with time and photographic equipment? A constant surprise. Not only were the gentlemen at the DH incredible photographers, but instant friends. Staffers James Roh and Spenser Heaps will always be considered lifelong buddies of mine following my six months in Utah. While we all had a similar drive and stylistic approach to covering assignments, one of my favorite things to do was look back on the “Week in Pictures” gallery on HeraldExtra.com and take in the diversity of vision and photographic choice on the events we covered. Communication between the four of us was spot-on; rarely was an organizational mistake made, and Mark went well out of his way to coordinate the most efficient use of shooter’s time. When a slow day rolled around or assignments were wrapped for the day, the four Musketeers took to the studio to shoot absurd portraits of each other. All kidding aside, the best part about being an element in the department was the fact that there was room to grow.
What was your favorite assignment and why?
Shooting in the long golden hours of a Utah spring and summer makes everything fun, but some of my favorite events tended to air on the quirkier side. Demolition derbies, the annual LDS Conference, Holi, the BYU national rugby championship, pow wows… the list goes on. Naturally, as it is with newspapers, you will undoubtably cover events that you aren’t so keenly interested in – but that is just the way it goes. My philosophy is to take those kinds of assignments and try to make something more out of them, as a good time can be had at just about anything. Interns at the DH also get a chance to try their hand at NBA games and other events operating on a tight deadline.
What was the most important thing you learned?
Learning goes hand-in-hand with the reinforcement of existing knowledge. To put it bluntly, the DH helped to refine myself as a photographer. My images have more impact and better represent the story, edits are much leaner and confidence in my skill set is greater than it was previously. The aesthetic style to my pictures is starkly obvious – especially now – and my time in Utah Valley aided in the further development of that visual palette. All in all – the DH did what a great internship should do for a growing photographer.
Describe your personal and professional growth during the internship.
Although my answer echoes the previous, a maturity came with time spent in Utah. For better or for worse, I approach assignments like personal work. The way I “see” is reflected in the edit, but it does not overpower the importance of the subjects or story being covered. After working with many editors and photographers over the past several years, being around fresh eyes in a new environment forces rapid growth.
What will you do next?
After a number of internships that moved me around the United States, I could not be more excited to return home to Seattle and know that it will be my home base for some time. The Emerald Collective, a visual production company that I operate alongside two friends – Mark Malijan and Kyle Seago – was lucky enough to land an international project that took us to Haiti in late June. Upon my return, my ultimate goal to photograph for The Seattle Times will close out my internship career. After all is said and done, I plan on freelancing for a year or two with my business and seeing how that fares. This work is always a ride – I’m sure more surprises are waiting in the wings.