It was her day off, a balmy 70-some degree day with hardly any clouds, and Erin Clark was heading to try out her new hammock at the beach (one of the perks of living in a coastal city) when she discovered she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography.
“I was in disbelief. I think I still am,” said Clark.
A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Clark earned her Master of Arts in photojournalism in 2018 from OHIO’s Scripps College of Communication in the School of Visual Communication. She has worked for the Boston Globe as a photojournalist since January, when she was hired full-time after being an intern.
She has one word to describe her job: “Awesome.”
The Pulitzer website describes Clark’s finalist project as “…respectful and compassionate photography of a working Maine family (the Lupiens) as it falls into homelessness and finds new housing, albeit precarious.”
See the photographs and read the family’s narrative via the original Boston Globe story, written by Zoe Greenberg.
Clarks said she has stayed in touch with the Lupien family since they moved to New Hampshire. The children are doing well in school and Patrick’s job is considered essential, so he has continued to work from home throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
We asked Erin Clark to reflect on her time in Athens. Read her answers below.
How did the Scripps College of Communication equip you with the skills you needed to succeed? Oh man, where do I even begin? I often think back through the past few years of my life and it’s still hard for me to comprehend how I got here. The incredible faculty of VisCom taught me everything. Marcy Nighswander taught me how to make a photo (don’t cut off the feet!), Stan Alost taught me how to think critically and empathetically (always look for the light!), Becky Sell is just an inspiration in and of herself, Josh Birnbaum taught me how to be curious (while also providing a proper education on a good beard), Julie Elman taught me the importance of maintaining my creativity. The list could go on. The VisCom department is truly legendary and one-of-a-kind. I love and miss them with all of my heart.
What do you miss the most about Athens? Well, the VisCom faculty - obviously. I miss my incredibly talented cohort (could not have been luckier to spend two years with such remarkable individuals). I also miss the pontoon boats at Strouds. I miss the patio at Jackie O’s. I miss seeing Stan Alost’s cowboy hat floating through the produce section literally every single time I went to Kroger. I miss how green nature would get in mid-May. I don’t miss the allergies, though. I miss seeing Julie Elman play her banjo during bluegrass night at Little Fish. I miss de-stressing at PetLand and playing with the puppies while pretending I was actually interested in bringing one home. This list could go on, as well. Can you tell I’m nostalgic?
What advice do you have for current students? Embrace the process. It’s hard. Oh, believe me when I say it’s hard. You’re going to cry. A lot. Stan has a box of tissues in his office. You’re going to feel defeated. You might even question everything. But the VisCom faculty know what they’re doing. They have your back. Visit them often. Pick their brains. They’re some of the smartest and most talented people I have ever known. Allow yourself to be curious. Allow yourself to be critical, but not too much. Allow yourself to be malleable and take it all in. Befriend your fellow students. And now this is the part where I get to share some of the best advice that I ever received while I was at VisCom, imparted to me by the aforementioned Stan Alost.
Frustrated with my work and doubtful that it had the impact I wanted, I went to Stan for advice, He said, “how did it make you feel, and how can you allow for your viewer to feel the same way?” From that point on, I have taken time to pay attention. I observe, I inhale, I breathe, I absorb my atmosphere. Never disqualify your empathy and your ability to relate. Now go forth and tell stories!
We noticed in your picture that you have a green button with a “V” on it. Can you tell us more about it? My VisCom pin!!! If you haven’t been able to tell already, I am immensely proud of my VisCom education. I have a plethora of VisCom pins, affixed to coats, hats, bags - whatever I can get it to pin on. Go VisCom!
How has COVID-19 impacted you? Work is different, and yet it has also not changed, in some ways. We (the photographers) were already accustomed to working remotely. What has changed is my ability to connect with people. Adjusting to maintaining a safe social distance while also wearing a mask has changed the way that I work in drastic ways. I never truly appreciated until now how a smile and subtle facial expressions impacts your ability to make someone comfortable. The first couple weeks of Coronavirus coverage was a bit paralyzing as I had to relearn how to tell people’s stories from a safe distance.