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Connecting through a Camera

I've always loved telling stories. As long as I can remember, I would be the one who volunteered to read in front of the class. I lit up when I got the chance to animatedly recount a funny moment or memorable experience to friends or family. While my passion for storytelling hasn't changed much over recent years, the way I choose to do so definitely has.

The first time I remember picking up a camera was when I was 8 years old, standing at the precipice of the Bright Angel trailhead in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. While I could barely see the viewfinder through the oversized sunglasses on my face and the nearly unfathomable amount of sunscreen on my cheeks, I knew I had done something the moment I pressed the shutter button. I'm not really sure if I believe in love at first sight, but for the creative part of my brain, that was about as close as it gets. I've been hooked ever since that day.

When I heard about the Visual Brand Storytelling class, I jumped at the prospect of using my photographic ability to contribute to the BrandJRNY mission. Photographing a new place with new people wouldn't be anything new to me, but the way I went about it would. Much of my photography experience comes from rowdy WVU sporting events and taking photos of college athletes who are used to having a camera in their face on a near-daily basis. Photographing in Point Pleasant would have to be different. To capture the authentic people, personalities, and moments of the city, I couldn't just be another man with a camera. I would have to be Corbin. I would have to be me.

I got the chance to put this to the test the moment we arrived at the Point Pleasant High School gym for the PPHS vs. Wahama basketball game. We were thrown immediately into a fast-paced environment where our job, over the course of 60 or so minutes, was to tell the story of the night as effectively as possible. When photographing sporting events, I always find myself drawn not to the action on the court, but the people in the stands. For me, emotion is the most crucial element in a photograph. This situation was no different. I found the PPHS student section, waited for the right moment, and let my shutter roll. This is what I captured.


Point Pleasant High School students cheer during a PPHS vs. Wahama varsity basketball game. Source | Corbin Mills

Successfully telling the story of the night required more than just being in the right place at the right time. It took conversations, connections, introducing myself to the students sitting in the front row, and telling them I wanted to see how hype they could get. This photo ended up being one of my favorites from the night, not only because of the story within the frame, but also because of the story behind taking it. That is what being a photographer is all about. My name is Corbin Mills and I’m the Point Pleasant photographer for the Spring 2020 semester. On the rare occasion you catch me without my camera in hand, I’ll probably be on Twitter evangelizing about the superiority of New Jersey pizza and bagels. Follow me through our journey– @corbinmills18.

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Housed at the WVU Media Innovation Center, BrandJRNY is a community branding initiative that is a grant-funded collaboration between the American Electric Power Foundation and WVU Reed College of Media.

The Initiative was previously funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for our three pilot projects.

Original website designed by Mariah Elliott, under the direction of PI and Director Dr. Rita Colistra.

Photos and content may not be used without written permission by contacting brandjrny@gmail.com.

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