CPOY Coordinator Yanran Huang interviewed Brittainy Newman of Rochester Institute of Technology, who was the gold winner of Individual Story or Essay - Standalone in 2018.
Nancy B.B. Meyer is a firm believer that animals are angels. Meyer has been adopting and helping to place animals from shelters for over 50 years. From dogs and cats to snakes, goats, and pigs, Meyer has been able to find a home for every animal brought to her attention. And she's never given up on an animal because it's old or sick or has been abused.
Yanran Huang: Could you talk about The Love Shack?
Brittainy Newman: The Love Shack was created during my senior year in college. I studied at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester New York and I graduated 2018. And so the Love Shack was a project I created actually in a portrait class. But I thought like this was a great character study. So I thought it’s kind of acted as a portrait in a way like a moving portrait of this woman named Nancy Meyers who lives in Rochester New York and lives in like a house that is all about giving love and spreading love. And I was really drawn to the house and to her obviously because the house itself is covered in hard. It’s super visual and crazy. I knocked on the door asking like who lives in here and just to like tell me more about herself and she was really open to being recorded and having her story shared. I ended up using a drone for like the beginning and ending shot. I didn't actually shoot the drone footage. I have an artistic director in that. I had a fellow student named Brian Bennett. And so I was like learning a whole bunch of new things while shooting this. I brought a light to do the interview. Technical wise I was learning a lot of things to do this project. The project is about Nancy Meyer and how she's all about spreading love and giving it. She was once battered in like the eighty's and so the house kind of access of the place where women who have been formally abused or like a domestic abusive relationship can come to her and like feel the love. But now she has transformed the house like her mission into helping the homeless and helping rescue the animals. In the film you can see like not only her and her husband in the kind of like a little day to day. They go out and celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with her and like all these homeless people. The dinner used to be held at the home itself but now they do it at like a nearby supermarket. It was just like a really quirky fun story. I'm really into quirky stories. So I'm really into people who just like have like a strong passion and like kind of artists to get their feel.
YH: Did you meet any difficulty while doing the story?
BN: I think it’s always difficult to tell a story. I have the curse of knowledge of like knowing everything about this woman so how do I convey that to viewers who know nothing through like video and through editing. So I think editing this project was definitely difficult. It took a lot of different iterations. I had a lot of different eyes looking at it to give me feedback like if it’s make sense, does it look like I'm making fun of her, the music choice and everything needs to be paid attention to.
I guess another difficult thing was this is in the dead of winter even though she was like a couple blocks down. I guess also just like that person was weird, getting this done, there is no story is important and you want to continue doing it. So staying motivated and keeping the people that you're working with, like my other assistant shooters or like Brian, for example, who helps with the drone, you know, keeping the motivated to be. Yes, this is important. So let's go and get up and let’s do this. I think that's another difficult thing that always happens in any project.
Nancy loves the piece, she still talk to me this day, the main character. And it's received so much good feedback like COPY. That was such an honor to receive 1st place that was like honestly really surprised me going insane.And so yeah I am I'm really happy with the response that project is getting.
YH: How is your fellowship in the New York Times going?
BN: I love it. Honestly, it’s a dream come true. I have assignments every day including weekends sometimes, like 7 days a week. My back is killing me carrying tons of different equipment because I never know what I'm shooting every day. Sometimes I get notified if I have been assigned that day that hour and so I always have reasonable lens in my backpack. But I love it. It's really an amazing opportunity and it's like brought me to so many different people. Photojournalism in general is like my keys of the world in a way. So people can allow you into their lives. That's such an amazing thing, the trust that comes with that, the relationship and friendship. That's all still happening while on assignment for them. I get amazing feedback from my editors you know. Tomorrow actually my college is visiting The New York Times. They always do meetings with different companies. So it's kind of cool full circle that like my college’s visiting and I’ve already is an alumna to present.
But it's really intense. It's cool. It's hard. Sometimes I think I like is long term, storytelling like documentary work. The majority of the assignments that I receive are actually portraits, building mugs and photographing sports a lot which I'm not like an expert on. But they want you to shot how you shot, not like how a Getty photographer or AP photographer shot. So it's really cool to just kind of staying in my own zone and show what I have to offer but then also have to learn all these so fast, like lighting and portraiture and so utilizes everything that I learned in college ten times. But it's really cool and I get to meet reporters and writers and seeing the story published in the paper. I get tear sheets via email and like seeing it like in person as it's like the coolest feeling. I got my 1st front page for the 9.11 memorial so that was also like a huge honor. It only makes me want to work harder and strive more.
YH: What’s your future plan?
BN: My main goal has always been to work on that a documentary film project. I'm working on one right now about virginity auction. There's these girls that are like selling their virginity online like hundreds of thousands of dollars and I already went to Peru and documented a girl for a week. Right now I'm playing the grants and hopefully getting funding from other sources to continue that and get some new equipment. I really for the future just like want to win an Oscar and like be on the red carpet and just be part of a team. That's really involved in like one long term like story. But I think that won’t happen for like a couple years. I think I still need I like having like that the work I can’t imagine being a freelance there's really hard specially in the video world. It's just not possible. I think you have to be part of the production company if you really want to do video because it just would kill your body, a lot of equipment, funds and everything. But I'm learning every day. This is like a business. So I think it's really interesting. In my future, I just want to continue telling stories in all different medium. I'm really into installation art and immersive storytelling. I eventually want to create an exhibit one day and so just incorporating animation and coding. This is a whole bunch of stuff I think there's a multitude of possibilities of storytelling.
YH: Can you provide some suggestions to college photographers who want to do multimedia in future career?
BN:Watch a lot of stuff. I spent all my free time in college, like in between classes, just watching New York Times op docs and going on the Vimeo page and looking at strictly college work and professional work. I would look at the in the school of journalism all their video works. Everyone's experience and life is different than yours. So the way they speak helps and impacts you and change your perspective personally and professionally. I just think it's really really important to watch films like from the 1970s, 60s, and looking at real cinema, composition and dialogue.
And then also, take your time when it comes to editing and how telling the story right. I like to be really hands on with how I edit. If I doing a couple interview, I transcribe everything, cut out the transcription, paste it on my wall all these stuffs. I think it's nice and fun to hands on and collaborative with your classmates and listen to them. I think a lot right now in college for photojournalists is very competitive. But your classmates are like your future resources so I think it's important to remember that and that can push them away from the competitions. I don't know. Just do it, do the work. It's a really really hard work. Who’s gona see this. Who’s cares. It might be the one doesn’t care. And you have to strive back and look at competitions and see what they look for.