The crazy life behind the lens

“News, your photos are up! Tease is also done!”

Our job is seemingly rote. We come into the office at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. every Monday night through Thursday and at 12 p.m. every Sunday afternoon.

We sit down at our workstation, open Google Chrome and an ugly array of tabs (Google Mail, Google Drive, Trello, multiple Google spreadsheets with assignments, the USC Trojan Athletics website, and Instagram) and connect to the work server that all sections access to drop and lay out their pages.

An inconspicuous, shameless plug.

An inconspicuous, shameless plug.

As the other sections get to work copy editing and planning their pages for text and graphics space, we begin to dig through a network of folders, scouring for photos requested by Lifestyle, News and Sports (in that order). Each photographer has their own folder, and within which are even more folders created for each event or story they are assigned. Files are downloaded in a flurry and after some communication with section editors, they get adjusted for print or converted to black and white if need be. Should a section need a cutout of an image for use in a feature or next to the masthead, we take care of that as well.

And we do that every production period.

Photoshop is bae.

Photoshop is bae.


“Go home.”

Any other person might think this to be some sort of tension between the photo editors, as though we want to see less of the other. But it’s quite the opposite reality, just a bit of camaraderie and an environment of inside jokes that make us all the more… human.

When a bout of sickness hit most students across USC, I was among the first to become tiredly sick and Ken followed quickly thereafter (and the rest of the newsroom in suit), so it became a running joke for us to tell each other to go home rather than work until as late as midnight. Even though we’re better now, we constantly tell each other to go home in cryptic ways, mostly as a token of appreciation for the hard work and effort we each contribute.


Home is where the mound of papers is.

Our home, a.k.a. our newly claimed desk, has also been a recent addition to keep things interesting. Early in the semester, the Graphics desk took over a workstation I had known to be the Photo desk since I joined the Daily Trojan in August 2012 –– though in their defense, the computer there had always been labeled “Graphics Computer” and the desks with computers labeled “Photo Computer” had always been used by copy editors in a more remote portion of the newsroom.

Instead of moving to that corner, we took over a different desk that had been home to towers of paper trays filled with rarely used office supplies and a mountain of AP Style manuals and Adobe InDesign tutorials. We worked with this sore sight for a few weeks before I decided on a whim to convert our new home:

Home, sweet home.

Home, sweet home.

Ken always sits on the left, and I sit on the right. In front of Ken rests a rather bare corkboard  we only have a California College Media Award for photography from 2005 and a newly drafted checklist. Between us rests some paper trays we adopted to store random papers we are given, and a sign that reads “Daily Trojan New! Photo Desk (Because Graphics kicked us out of our old one).” In front of me rests an accumulation of this semester’s newspapers for us to reference and a self-made “What People Think I Do” poster poking fun at our jobs.

It’s not much, but it breathes a bit more life into the mundane.

But even then, our life isn’t all that mundane. I applaud Anshu Siripurapu, our editor in chief, and Sebastian Vega, our digital managing editor, for emphasizing multimedia this semester. Our Instagram account has boomed thanks to some graphics created by digital team, but mostly, as I like to tell myself, because we’ve been posting images printed in that day’s paper featuring some article or piece of work. Photo stories are becoming bigger as we try to reimagine how the  Daily Trojan looks online.

On top of all this, there is something about Daily Trojan photo editors and staff photographers which makes this job the least mundane in the world.

The typical camera bag for your local, insane, photographer.

The typical camera bag for your local, insane, photographer.

We come from a line of photo editors for whom journalism or writing aren’t necessarily the future of our careers. The first Daily Trojan photo editor I served under, Razan Al Marzouqi, was a communications major in the Annenberg School of Journalism. But before Razan, photo editor Ani Kolangian studied gerontology. And then, after Razan, Austin Vogel studied computer science, as did the editor succeeding him, Ralf Cheung (who would actually go on to serve three terms as he continued at USC for his Master’s of Science in Computer Science). After him came Maya Dondonyan, a transfer student from the Fashion Institute of Design Merchandise who started at USC studying Philosophy.

And now there’s Ken and I.

Ken spent his first year of college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa before coming to USC to study economics. I started at USC as a broadcast and digital journalism major before quickly switching to mechanical engineering right before settling on computer science. The pattern of diverse academic backgrounds holds true when it comes to our photo staff, with no school or area of study more represented than another.

As photographers, we see the Daily Trojan as an outlet for us to put our skills to use, whether that’s through telling stories or informing the world visually. It’s how we express what we see creatively and factually. It’s how we get our fix of adrenaline by covering the heat of a game or the pressure of a breaking emergency. It’s how we share how we see the world, behind the desk or not.

Joseph Chen | Photo Editor

Kenneth Rodriguez-Clisham | Photo Editor

Instagram: @dailytrojan

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