Authors In The Media With Natalie Anna Jacobsen
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Authors In The Media With Natalie Anna Jacobsen
I have the honor and pleasure of doing my Authors In The Media with Natalie Anna Jacobsen. Other than Natalie having her book published in the fall of next year, Natalie is a journalist and photographer. I’m so thrilled Natalie agreed to do this Q&A with me today and I can’t wait to do a regular Q&A with her next year!
Q: Natalie, what made you want to pursue a career in journalism and photography?
A: An innate curiosity and desire to explore, learn, and connect with others inspired me to pursue journalism and photojournalism. In life we can never meet too many people, nor learn too much. Our myriad of cultures, ways of life, beliefs, and human experiences and how they differ and dovetail fascinate me.
Every day, we have to make decisions on what we want to eat, how we vote, where we earn information, who we interact with. A lot of the basis of our decision-making comes from shared and available information. Becoming a trusted voice in journalism, who could help people make decisions important to them, became a very special mission to me. I love capturing things as they are, recording events and interviews in words and pictures, to record history so we may continue to grow together and connect to one another.
Q: How long have you been a journalist and photographer?
A: I started both while in high school! My first article was published in a newspaper when I was just 13. It’s never too early to start, and it’s never too late to learn.
Q: Would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about any of the interesting stories you’ve covered as a journalist and where we can read them?
A: Absolutely! I have been fortunate in my journalism journeys and how many incredible people I’ve met and places I’ve been. These experiences are dear to me, and I always strive to do them justice.
One of my favorites for photojournalism was capturing an ancient Fire Festival in western Japan. It’s been going on for over a thousand years, changing little in how the traditions are carried out. It was a spectacle, taking place at the base of a waterfall – monks and volunteers carried massive barrels and bushels of fire to appease the spirits and burn away grief of the past year. You can read this article on my website, or at Tokyo Weekender’s website. There are physical copies out there, somewhere!
And the most powerful journalism experience I had was in Ghana. I was honored to join Charlottesville Mayor Walker on an expedition to sister city Winneba, near to where the slave castles were. Nearly all enslaved persons who were forced to the United States in the 400 years of the slave trade were “processed” through those two castles. This journey to explore the origins and roots of slavery, and how we perceive it today and honor victims and observe the past were moving, eye-opening, and something I still revisit today to learn from. That too is available on my website, or on C-Ville Weekly’s website.
Q: As a photographer what are your favorite things to take pictures of, people, places, or animals?
A: While I love photographing all subjects, and their individual challenges and personalities they present, there is something inherently special about capturing people. People bring generational stories, joy, grief, and experiences unique to them. Capturing their spirit and finding a way to snap their photo in a way that portrays their persona and reflects not just how they show themselves outside, but who they are on the inside, is an art I’m constantly striving to improve.
I love having an opportunity to also encourage confidence and authenticity when someone is in front of a camera. Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera, whether in a candid or formal atmosphere, and my job is to create an environment where they can be themselves and forget the camera is between us. This is where we can get even more creative, with conversation, taking a walk, doing something new, and pushing our own limits to break down the walls and open ourselves up to a place where taking photos becomes the side mission, and the focus is us just being in the moment. That’s when the best, most natural photos are taken!
Q: What advice would you give anyone who feels the call to pursue being a journalist and photographer as their careers?
A: Most writers will say this, and I’ll unabashedly echo it too – keep reading, and keep writing! Finding your voice and identifying your interests, tone, and where your writing excels the most will be critical to figuring out your path. Journalism is such a rewarding field, and photography can be a beautiful journey. But it all depends on who you are and where your interests lie.
If you have a passion for the environment, go out in nature and capture how you see the world. Study a particular genus of flora, or animal species, and become a specialist, so people look to you for the latest, trusted information in that realm. Set yourself apart from others. Find your niche and focus on that. Becoming a journalist doesn’t require a journalism degree – you can study your passion, and then become a subject matter expert, writer and voice in that area.
But most importantly, practice, practice, practice is so important! Art is an imperfect path in all forms. But honing your craft will only happen if you take risks, are open to criticism, and are willing to explore until you find what clicks best for you.
Q: Next fall we will talk about your upcoming debut novel and do a Q&A about it. Would you say that you being a journalist became helpful in writing a book since oftentimes writing a book requires research just like journalism does?
A: Unequivocally YES! Being a researcher at heart, with a strong determination to get the facts straight, drove me to be as true to this story, the time period, and culture as possible. The story is set in 1877 Kyoto. And while I’ve lived in Japan, speak the language, and studied literature and history, there are always so many details and contexts that need to be understood. I took years to learn minute details, obscure facts, and cross-check my information with professors and subject matter experts – just like I would in an article for a newspaper. Knowing which sources I could rely on, and how to edit and cite my work too is a skill I’ve learned over the years, so this became a very natural passion project that I am very excited to talk about with you next fall. Thank you!