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|| News Item: Posted 2010-10-03

Intern Diaries: The Colorado Springs Gazette
'A word of advice to would-be interns, pack for the unexpected.'

By Anthony Souffle

In the final weeks of spring semester I went out to lunch with a professor of mine at Southern Illinois University. He asked about my summer plans and I told him that I had an internship at The Gazette. "Colorado Springs?" he said. "That's a bit... conservative... don't you think?" pulling his collar away from his neck in an almost cartoon fashion. Until that moment it hadn't really crossed my mind that Colorado Springs was home to not only Focus on the Family, but also New Life Church and Ted Haggard. I wasn't worried though. I was too excited to be going to a great paper in a beautiful part of the country. My mind was too consumed with thoughts of mountains to be worried about Pastor Ted.
Photo by Anthony Souffle, The Gazette

Photo by Anthony Souffle, The Gazette

Will Mandino, 17, (with no shirt) of Colorado Springs reacts to a goal while watching the United States men's soccer team play a World Cup match between Ghana Saturday, June 26, 2010, at McCabe's Tavern in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Searching for housing is always a challenge. Not only do interns have to find a place that will accommodate a short term lease of just three months, but for me the issue is compounded by my dog, Brama, a 4-year-old, 80-pound, Belgian Malinois who I've had since he was a puppy. Over the years he's come with me to internships in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and now, Colorado.

I've had luck with Craigslist in the past, and I've learned over the years that the best bet for temporary summer housing is right around whatever college or university is in the area. I scoured the Internet for a place to live but after weeks of searching I was still coming up empty. Then one day I got an email. Through some friends of some friends of one of the other interns, Brama and I finally had a place to live.

I packed my car with what I considered to be the minimal amount of things I would need for the summer. The art of stuffing a summer's worth of belongings into a Honda is something I've become quite the expert at over the years. I divided my possessions into three categories, personal stuff, work stuff and Brama who takes up about two thirds of my car's back seat.

A word of advice to would-be interns: Pack for the unexpected. There's nothing like finding out that you have to photograph a funeral the next day and realizing your suit is hanging in the closet at your parent's house. After an hour long game of Tetris I finally got everything packed.

The drive was easy. AS with every internship I've had, I downloaded a few audio books and a few back weeks of This American Life and drove from St. Louis to Colorado Springs in one day.

Something I've learned over the years is to give yourself a few days of transition time at the beginning and end of your internship. Having a few days from the time you move to a new town and when you start at the paper gives you time to drive around, become familiar with the major local landmarks and get to know your roommates. In my case, I had eight of them.

You read that right, eight people and two dogs, under one roof. I know it sounds crazy, but this is one of the best decisions I ever could have made. The eight people I lived with were all students at Colorado College, or the "Harvard of the West" as they called it. Most of them were science majors of some sort, but they were easily the nicest, most welcoming group of people I've ever known.

I remember driving to work on the first day and pulling up at light behind a small school bus. As I gazed out the windshield I noticed the bus wasn't actually a school bus, and that bars covered the windows. No sooner did I realize this than, a giant paw came pressing up against the bars and I realized there was a grizzly bear inside. We turned to go different directions at the next light and I noticed the words Grizzly Bear Sanctuary written on the side. I knew they had bears in Colorado but I didn't expect to see one in a school bus on my first day.
Photo by Anthony Souffle, The Gazette

Photo by Anthony Souffle, The Gazette

Shane Simonson, center, of Fort Collins, Colo., stands with his fellow doolies after receiving their Airman Battle Uniforms during the intake process Thursday, July 24, 2010, at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

When I got to the office I was greeted by a cheerful Mark Reis, The Gazette's deputy director of photography who helped usher me though the mounds of paperwork. I was excited to meet Mark, a man Rich Clarkson describes as "certainly one of the finest newspaper photographers working in the nation" and after having spent a summer with him I couldn't agree more.

Reis always has the readers in mind and he's always striving to get interesting and thought provoking photos without being gimmicky. He also happens to be incredibly humble about it. He goes out every day and makes some truly amazing images, but he doesn't come back and brag about them, or blog them, or go tout himself all over the Internet. Rather he just goes out and quietly kicks ass every day. Aside of being a great photographer, he's also a really great guy.

Of all the internships I have done, the assignments at The Gazette were easily some of the coolest. Stuart Wong, The Gazette's director of photography, works really hard to pick and choose which assignments get covered. Every so often though I would come into work and be asked to simply go find a daily feature. I have to confess, these were some of my most favorite days. Rather than being told what to go shoot, I could just go shoot whatever I wanted. Everything was fair game and I took full advantage of that fact.

Once, on a whim, I called up the local wolf sanctuary and asked if anything interesting was going on there. Coincidentally, they had just built a new enrichment enclosure and invited me to come photograph some of the wolves. I got to spend my entire day sitting in a pen with two timber wolves. It was an amazing experience.

I also really enjoyed working Sundays at The Gazette. On Sundays the office was usually pretty bare and Reis works the desk, this meant I could talk to him about anything I wanted. Sometimes we'd chat about assignments or he'd help me with an edit. Often I'd ask about his experiences and he would oblige. Sometimes we would chat about photography and sometimes we would chat about life. I think I learned just as much from those conversations as I did from shooting.

One thing I found really interesting about The Gazette was their stance on video and multimedia - they hardly ever do it. Instead they focus their attention on still photography and doing it the best they can. Rather than pushing for video, the top editors at the paper were pushing us for more photo galleries. Their thought was that photo galleries produce more page views since each image is its own page. More page views mean more advertising dollars. It made sense to me.
Photo by Anthony Souffle, The Gazette

Photo by Anthony Souffle, The Gazette

Cowboys watch helplessly as one of the bucking horses rears up in the chute during the Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo Saturday, July 3, 2010, at the Norris-Penrose Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

As with any publication there are certain events that get covered every year. Intake day at the United States Air Force Academy happens at the beginning of every summer. When I first heard about intake day I was immediately intrigued. On that day the 1,200 recent high school graduates who made it though the selection process report to the USAFA to begin their careers at the Academy. Over the next three months the USAFA moulds these individuals into cadets. On intake day they are stripped of all their possessions, made to line up, look straight ahead and answer only when spoke to. Oh, and boys all get their heads shaved. It seemed like a photo gold mine. I had to shoot this one.

I talked to several of the photographers, all of whom have shot intake day, about different ways to approach it. Eventually I settled on following one kid though the whole day. This wasn't a popular approach, but it's the one I took. I wanted to see everything the cadets went though and following one kid seemed like the only logical way to do that.

I showed up at the USAFA early on the morning of intake day. Once on the grounds of the Academy I was paired up with a media escort. I have to say; I thought this was going to drive me insane. I've been on assignments with a public relations escort breathing down my neck -- but contrary to my worries, I really appreciated having an escort. The woman I was paired with was extremely helpful and happy to oblige my nearly every request. I didn't really know how I was going to choose a cadet to follow. My only plan of attack was to sit in the parking lot and watch people come in, hoping to find someone who looked interesting.

Shane Simonson of Fort Collins, Colo. was in the bathroom when the media escort and I ambushed his family. We had both seen him walking though parking lot with them and instantly knew he was our guy. His hair was shaggy, his glasses were trendy and he was wearing plaid shorts. He didn't fit into the stereotypical Academy type. When he returned we told him the plan and thankfully he was cool with it.

I followed Shane though the entire day and then, after one of those Sunday conversations with Mark, I decided to follow Shane though the entire summer. I was there with him when he marched out to the Jacks Valley training complex for a few weeks of physical training, I ran the obstacle course with him, and I was there for his acceptance day ceremony and for his first week of classes. Stuart and the photo staff were all wonderful about helping me get time to work on the project.

In all, I had a wonderful experience at The Gazette. I definitely grew as a photojournalist and I managed to find some additions to my portfolio along the way. I have to say a huge thanks to Mark, Stuart, Jerilee, Brian, Kevin, Carol and the kids on Cache Street. It was because of you guys that I had such an amazing summer and I'm truly grateful for the experience.

Anthony Souffle was hired as a staff photographer at the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, UT after his internship at The Gazette. You can see his work at on his member page:

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