Photojournalism student works with WXXI on Vietnam reporting

Student Spotlight
Emily Hunt, fourth-year photographic arts and sciences major

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Emily Hunt

A photo taken by Emily Hunt for the Vietnam Veterans series by WXXI.

Emily Hunt is a fourth-year photojournalism student from Kingston, Mass. Last summer, Hunt completed an internship with WXXI working on local reporting for articles that were published leading up to the release of Ken Burns’ new documentary The Vietnam War. Hunt conducted 15 interviews, worked on transcribing the interviews and took portraits of her subjects to help with the project. Her photos and the articles accompanying them can be viewed on the WXXI website.

Hunt would like to work on more documentary projects as she progresses in her career as a photojournalist using sound, video and static images to tell a story. She is also interested in pursuing photo editing work and wants to work in collaboration with other journalists to help bring different stories to life. Hunt had previous involvement with the Colleges Against Cancer group on campus, but this year she is focusing on her work as the “What We Do” Chair on the EBoard for RIT’s chapter of the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: It was the photojournalism program itself. It was a really unique program and I had heard a lot of good things about it. I ended up coming to RIT for a visit and I just loved the school and had a really great time. Seeing the work that was coming out of RIT was really helpful because it showed the level of talent that people had when they graduated. I wasn’t looking at too many schools. I kind of had my sights set on RIT.

Q: Why did you choose to pursue photojournalism?
A: I think it was kind of always something in the back of my mind but I didn’t really know it. When my sister started looking at colleges, my mom and I were talking and I was like, ‘Find me a school for photography and I’ll go.’ I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was just taking photos of things I thought were pretty. I think I kind of stumbled upon photojournalism. This is pretty typical, but I liked the photos that really stick with you and they make you stop and look and just wonder what someone’s story is. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to bring these stories to life and engage people and make images that really stopped and made people think.

Q: How did you hear about the opportunity at WXXI?
A: There was an email sent out by Professor (Meredith) Davenport to a couple of students saying that WXXI was looking for interns. There were two of us from the program who applied and we were both chosen to come and work on different projects with them. It was kind of just a matter of getting my cover letter to them and getting an interview. It was a very quick process.

Q: What about the Ken Burns project made you interested in applying?
A: When I received the email from Dr. Davenport it said specifically what the projects were. I had seen what they wrote about the Vietnam War, and in the back of my mind I had been wanting to do a personal project about my family members who had been in the military, so it was something that kind of jumped out at me. I thought that maybe this was a project that could be really interesting for me.

Q: What was it like interviewing people for this project?
A: It was different from my classwork in the sense that the content that I was interviewing for wasn’t what I’m used to. It was a lot of speaking to people who had these really emotional stories from the past, and I think a lot of the work I’ve done hasn’t been as emotionally weighted as some of their stories were. You’re sitting there and you’re listening to Vietnam veterans and what it was like for them to lose a friend right next to them, or to come back to the States and not even get a thank you from their mom. So, I think in terms of where I had to be emotionally, it was a little bit different because you want to connect to these people and you want to understand their stories and be empathetic, but also from a journalistic perspective you really want to get them to talk and speak about it. It can really resonate with a lot of people because so many people were affected by the Vietnam War. I think my interviewing skills got a lot better through this experience.

Q: What is your favorite project you’ve worked on since coming to RIT?
A: There are two. The summer of 2016 I studied abroad in Kosovo to take a documentary projects class. That was a really interesting experience because you had to work in a foreign language. It was a lot of learning how to be patient and how body language can go a long way when you’re with people who don’t speak your language. Body language is a similar language in all cultures, so just smiling at people and trying to make them feel comfortable when you’re there to invade their space is something that was really helpful. Being able to photograph over there was amazing. The second is my senior capstone project. I have been working with a young woman who has a mitochondrial disease and she is going to college for the first time. She was homeschooled for medical reasons, but now she is able to go to college and she is trying to make that transition from homeschool to school away from home. It’s a video piece and I’m really excited to see how it comes out!

Q: What are your plans after you graduate RIT?
A: I’m really interested in working in D.C. I’m drawn to that area. I want to do either photo editing or video work down there. I’m interested in working on some sort of an international scale. If it’s not working abroad myself, I would like to work with someone who is in another country. I don’t have a set five-year plan, but I’m starting to figure it out as I go through senior year.

Felicia Swartzenberg compiles “Student Spotlights” for University News. Contact her at with suggestions.