When Nebraska’s Calla Kessler is behind the camera, she’s working to promote understanding, convey empathy and forge genuine connections between the people in her images and those who see them post-publication.
An Omaha-native and now a senior in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Kessler spent 2017 on photo internships at newspapers in Washington, D.C., and West Palm Beach, Florida. She also won a Hearst photojournalism national championship last year. She also has worked as a social media manager for Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer, and participated in Nebraska’s Global Eyewitness class trips to Nicaragua and Nepal.
“Three summers ago I was navigating my way through a manure-laden farm with my camera dangling for dear life around my neck, swaying to and fro above a mess a few lens cleaners couldn’t fix,” Kessler said. “I was herding some pigs around an empty barn, working on my first photo story in a rural town in northeastern Nebraska. As an intern for a small weekly newspaper, I was just starting to get a feel for my future as a photojournalist.”
“I want to be a journalist for others, not myself. I strive to listen first, then translate stories into images.”
- Calla Kessler
She spent summer 2017 at the The Washington Post covering President Donald Trump on occasion and was sent to Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 to photograph white nationalists clashing with counter=protesters. She captured compelling imagery for the Post, but ended up getting hit with pepper spray while trying to do her job.
“It was one of the hardest and most hateful events I have ever covered,” Kessler said.
From D.C., she headed south for the fall semester to intern at the Palm Beach Post in Florida. As a staff photographer she was assigned to cover a variety of events, but her favorite was photographing 11 families in need for an annual project the newspaper calls Seasons to Share.
“Park View’s vibe pulsates in the streets. Aromas fill the air: Latin-American food, clouds of cigarette smoke and urban sweat. This neighborhood, north of Howard University in D.C., was welcoming to me and quickly felt like home.”
- Calla Kessler
Kessler graduates May 5 with a bachelor of journalism emphasizing English and history. She will head back to D.C., for another summer internship that she hopes will lead to full-time employment.
Follow Kessler’s work via Twitter.