By Ebbie Davis, Photo Editor
Known for his ability to turn a “point and shoot” photographer into a photojournalist and his down-to-earth teaching technique, Jim Veneman, assistant professor of communication arts and director of Visual Communication, was awarded the National Press Photographers Association’s Robin F. Garland Educator Award.
According to the NPPA website, the “Robin F. Garland Educator Award” is given for outstanding service as a photojournalism educator.
Veneman has been working for Union as a photography professor since 1999. After developing a career in photojournalism, Veneman was invited to teach at Union following a conference he attended with Dr. David S. Dockery, university president. He began teaching students to look for moments while finding opportunities to share stories visually.
“(Winning this award) is something that has made me stop and think, because when I look at the list of the people who have won this in the past, editors of huge publications and influential teachers that are very solid people with a firm foundation, but they are very visionary at the same time,” Veneman said. “It’s made me want to stop and think about the future of our program, where students are heading and what they really need to be thinking about.”
Having an eye for photography and a passion for capturing moments cannot be taught, but providing the visual understanding of finding the moments and capturing the stories can. Veneman encourages a sense of understanding to his students while teaching the skills needed to produce good photos — but most importantly, he stresses the significance of seeing the people and finding the story, regardless of whether his students find themselves outside of their comfort zone.
“(My students) need to be thinking about the integrity of the story and the power of the image more than just simply how it is transferred from one place to another,” Veneman said.
Rachel Golias, Union alumna, said, “Mr. Veneman has been one of the largest influences on my photography style and career.
“He constantly pushed me to stretch my experience, think outside of the box, work in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations and create better images.”
Golias said Veneman’s passion for photography is contagious. His lessons are designed to encourage his students to see the subjects in the lens as people, not just photos. He teaches that everyone has a story and people can be found everywhere, therefore so can stories.
Veneman said photographers need to find a balance between the technology side of photographs and finding the story.
Veneman has been instilling the love of photojournalism in his students while providing many of his graduates the skills and passion to pursue photojournalism after college.
“He is such a convincing teacher; anyone who takes his classes will leave thinking they would like to be a photographer,” said Jordan Buie, Union alumnus and Jackson Sun reporter. “At least I did.”