Interview with Mike Yoder
GC Graduation Year
Why or how did you choose your field? Were there specific experiences that influenced you?
In college I realized I had a knack for framing things with a camera, but at the time I pursued it mainly for enjoyment. But one thing led to another, and I was soon working on the MapleLeaf yearbook and newspaper. It didn’t feel like work—it was too much fun. However, I didn’t think of it as a possible career path. I was in the communication major sequence, but pursuing what I thought would be a career as a radio disc jockey.
I think a big influence that got me leaning more toward photojournalism was my advisor Stuart Showalter and a senior year internship as a photographer with the Elkhart Truth. Also, when I did my SST, I was asked to help photograph our SST group for the college. To document everyone, I got to travel with the SST leaders to all the different student’s service sites. I realized then that being a photojournalist wasn’t just a job, but was a means to participate in a whole world of jobs and the activities and events that other’s experience.
What’s exciting about your job or field?
Each day I get to participate in and communicate stories with my camera. On a recent morning I documented a nationally recognized sculptor completing a life- sized memorial, in the afternoon I spent time with a family and a boy who has a rare life-threatening disease, and I ended my day photographing a youth theater play rehearsal. Each subject or event provides me with a new life experience and connects me to the people who make up the community where I live. This enriches my experience of the world. I believe photojournalism is not one career, but rather an opportunity to participate in many careers. Creatively framing that world and sharing visual stories with others is what excites me.
What has been a challenge in your career journey?
Keeping up with technology and adapting to change in the methods of news delivery has been the biggest challenge. When I started in photojournalism you processed film in chemicals, printed photographs in a darkroom, and published them in a newspaper. Now everything is digital and immediate. I can take a laptop computer into the woods, transmit a photo wirelessly in seconds, and have it online in minutes. The printed newspaper is now secondary to the electronic version online. This has meant learning how to gather audio with separate recorders, shoot and edit video, and piece all the components together for creative audio/visual story-telling packages.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I don’t think there would be much I would change. If I had been more certain of my abilities as a photographer, I probably would have jumped into photojournalism graduate studies earlier.
How did your liberal arts education assist you in your journey?
I have always felt that my liberal arts education was just right for me. It provided a wide range of studies and knowledge that prepared me for any career. It has been especially useful for my career as a photojournalist. The broad scope of my education matches well with my varied experiences working as a photojournalist.
Did anyone offer you some memorable advice that you’d like to pass on? Or…what advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
The best advice I could give students or recent graduates in the journalism field, is to be the best all-around journalist possible. If you are a good writer, try to become a better photographer and vice versa. If you like still photography, stretch yourself and learn how to shoot and edit video. Your value as a journalist increases with your ability to multitask. If you have a great story idea and can write it and provide photographs, audio and video, you can maintain total creative control over your work and probably earn the accolades of editors everywhere.
Oh, and the most important advice for photographers – keep the lens cap off and always get names!