I Believe in My Camera

Aug 7, 2014

Credit Kelly Tunney / WPSU

I believe in my camera.

I’m a homebody.  Left to my own devices, I’d stay in my room most of the time, sitting on my bed, surfing the Internet, wasting time.

My first couple of years of college, I didn’t really do anything outside of classes. I would watch people experiencing life—going to football games, being in clubs—and I’d think, “That would be rewarding to do… if I were an extrovert.” 

By the end of my sophomore year, I looked back and thought, “Wow, what did I do this year?  …Not much.” I was a journalism major and came to the conclusion that, at the very least, I should get some experience doing journalism.  So I picked up my camera and tried out to be a photojournalist for Penn State's student newspaper, The Daily Collegian. 

And I got in.  The other photographers were really welcoming. I liked the people—and hanging out at the office, there’s always someone to talk to.  There’s a shared sense of purpose.  Suddenly I realized, “I have friends now.”  It was the perfect introduction to a social life. 

I’ve been taking pictures since elementary school but I’d never seen my camera as a social tool until I joined the Collegian. I found when I picked up my camera to go on assignment, I had a reason to go out and be in the world. 

And it’s not just my social life that opened up. My camera also exposed me to people and circumstances I wouldn’t have otherwise known—or really cared—about. 

I’d never gone to a football game as a student, but the newspaper put me out there on the sidelines, shooting the game. Even though I’ve never been interested in football as a sport, I suddenly got why it’s such a big deal. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air. And while I normally wouldn’t enjoy being in the middle of tens of thousands of people, I felt comfortable being there as a photographer, between the crowd and the players on the field.

It’s not just football. For every assignment, I’d have a reason to experience something different and I’d get to learn about something new.

I spent six weeks following Mormon missionaries for a story. I hung out with a family that lives in a tent every year at the Grange Fair. I got a glimpse of what it’s like to raise a child with severe epilepsy. 

When I’m behind my camera, I have a license to be part of the action. I’m not Kelly the introvert; I’m Kelly the photojournalist. 

Now that I’m graduating, I can look back and see how much of a difference taking pictures made in my life. If my camera hadn’t taken me out in the world, I guarantee I would’ve watched every season of Dexter, every episode of The Wire. I would’ve seen all of the West Wing.  And that would’ve been college.

My camera got me out of my dorm room and into a circle of friends. It gave me a reason to close my computer and experience real life. I believe in my camera.

- Kelly Tunney graduates from Penn State University Park in the Summer of 2 with a double major in visual journalism and English. He's been the multimedia intern at WPSU-FM this summer. He’s looking for a job as a photojournalist for a newspaper.