Students capture ‘The New Normal’

Posted on Jan 29, 2021 in Campus News and News

Fall 2020 may have been a semester to forget, but one KU journalism class was focused on making sure it could always be remembered.

Professor Eric Thomas saw a unique opportunity with his Photojournalism class to document a year unlike any other. Students captured shots of life on campus, both memorable and mundane to show their daily lives as students trying to get a college education during a global pandemic, with the end result a photo book available for sale.

Early in the fall with the semester’s future unknown, Thomas’ goal to produce the book was anything but certain.

Honestly, I am surprised that we got the book complete,” Thomas said. “The book was a goal that I essentially whispered to the class because I was unsure that the pandemic, the state of classes on campus, the class’ health or even my health would allow us to complete it. Submitting the book to the publisher this month was, in some ways, the most unexpected thing that happened for me during a semester that was surprising at almost every turn.”

The photos cover moments in time such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 presidential election, and daily realities such as the pandemic and the resulting unemployment.

Phoebe Koruna, a junior journalism major from the Chicago area, came into the class with limited experience telling stories through photography.

“I took a few photography and digital art classes in high school, but I had never tried photojournalism,” Koruna said. “Artistic and journalistic photography have a lot in common, but I wasn’t used to taking well-composed pictures of strangers and asking for their information without using too much of their time. Capturing history instead of creating art was also different for me.”

As the end of the semester approached, the real work began: sorting through thousands of photos to find the very best to make the book. The process bled into the weeks after the semester ended, but the class was determined to get the job done.

“I will remember this year as a turbulent time, one of depressing news and little social life,” Koruna said. “I lost a chunk of my college experience, though I paid full tuition price. But I am also grateful, for my professors and peers, who made the best of a bad situation, and for this learning experience, even if it was not the experience that I had pictured. Professor Thomas’s class got me out of my apartment and thinking creatively; it was something I could focus my energy and attention on. I got to help document our small slice of history, and I will always be grateful for that.”

Interested in a copy of the book? Purchases can be made on the KU Bookstore’s website. Proceeds from the book benefit the School of Journalism’s scholarship fund.

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