Journalism student shares feelings about visiting guest speaker

Natalie Johnson
Contributing Writer

Career photojournalist Krista Kennell shows some of her equipment to journalism students on Aug. 12. (Photo by Abby Botan)
Career photojournalist Krista Kennell shows some of her equipment to journalism students on Aug. 12. (Photo by Abby Botan)

I walked into the classroom on a blazing hot Friday morn, to find that the class expectations quiz that I had studied so very hard for had been moved to next Tuesday. Career photojournalist Krista Kennell is to blame for the many hours wasted studying for this open note quiz.

“Do you have any coffee?”

“I have tea; some Earl Grey, Camomile?”

“Awesome. Do you have coffee?”

This is something similar to the exchange between Kennell and journalism teacher Donald Johnson. This was understandable; who would want Camomile tea at 7:50 a.m. to wake you up to speak to a room of high schoolers? Not Krista Kennell.

Already it was clear that this was a special visit.  The Buffy the Vampire Slayer mug had been moved from its home next to its matching lunch box (and filled with coffee). I had not seen this been done before. The room seemed a bit tidier, the white boards better erased.

The entire class was mentally shooting daggers at Johnson for moving the test; he better have had a good reason. Golly, he did. After a short introduction on how she worked for Getty images, AP and as a freelancer, Kennell showed us some of her photographs, which were absolutely incredible to say the least. In California where she lives, she’s what they call a “Fire Shooter.” This job is just as cool as its name. In full firegear, Kennell, with cameras, goes down into the raging Cali forest fires and captures amazing shots of the flames and fire fighters in action. Does driving your pickup truck through a burning forest make you crazy? Maybe, but who cares? Not Krista Kennell.

From The New York Times to Life over 50, from Lindsay Lohan to the First Lady, from California to NYC, you’ve seen her work. Using all Canon equipment, Kennel covers news and entertainment. Whether she is running away from gunfire at the border, or running to catch One Direction walk down the red carpet, she always gets amazing pictures.  Yes, I said, “One Direction”- oh and “gunfire.” Kennell and a friend went down to Texas and were along the border doing their job and putting their lives at risk to get that perfect shot. As she said, “ It’s a very dangerous job, but it’s a thankful job.” The more we heard about her many adventures, the more this statement made by Kennell rang true. One of her dear friends Chris Hondros lost his life on the job in Libya. The word “job” is being used loosely. To Hondros, Kennell, and many others, this isn’t just a job; this is their life.

In his honor, Kennell was the West Coast Director of a non-profit organization that provide free family portraits to servicemen and women . She was recognized for this by First Lady Michelle Obama.

About how long ago she started her job in photography, Kennell responded with, “When I was eight years old and my mom first put a camera in my hands.”

Not just anyone can buy their fancy Canon cameras and drive through fires to become a photographer. You have to want it; you must really have to love it to have a job as challenging as Kennell’s. I feel so honored to have met a person as successful and talented as her.

She told our class about her many travels and long car rides. I would love to one day have a job like hers. Who’s scared of a little adventure? Not Krista Kennell.


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