MSU’s 34th Annual Pow Wow of Life

Every year, Michigan State University’s North American Indigenous Student Organization holds a Pow Wow.

This event provides Native students, as well as Natives in the local community, an opportunity to come together and celebrate their culture. 2017 marks their 34th year holding this event.

I came across this event on the internet and I was super excited to photograph it, I am of Native American descent and rarely do I find events like this in the local community.

There were a ton of vendor tables selling beautiful, handmade goods. And of course, the main attraction, there was a ton of dancing.

The lovely music in the slideshow is live music I recorded at the event.

Overall, I had a really great time at this event, and I was able to compile all of the information I have learned over my years shooting and my months in this Photojournalism course to really produce photographs that I am satisfied with.

Portraiture ft. Members of “Swell Times, Dude!”

Christian Peterson is the drummer and backup vocalist in the Downriver based punk band “Swell Times, Dude!”


Christian Peterson


Christian Peterson


Christian Peterson on his drum set, in his home in Lincoln Park, MI, on Wednesday.


Christian Peterson hugs his dog, Duke, in his home in Lincoln Park, MI, on Wednesday. 

Brandon Manoyian is the rhythm guitarist in the Downriver based punk band, “Swell Times, Dude!”


Brandon Manoyian


Brandon Manoyian


Brandon Manoyian goofs around in a mask in Christian Peterson’s house in Lincoln Park, MI, on Wednesday.


Brandon Manoyian chills out in Christian Peterson’s house in Lincoln Park, MI, on Wednesday. 


I’ve done portrait photography before, so this was nothing new to me. I like to think that portraiture is my specialty, it’s what I’m most comfortable doing, and it’s always a lot of fun.

The only part of this assignment that I found challenging was low lighting (shake-y hands + slow shutter speeds = blur blur blur), which seems to be a consistent challenge for me throughout my completion of assignments in this Photojournalism course, but I feel as though I am becoming more accustomed to working in low lights.

With a lot of the work I have done before this course I have gravitated toward shooting outdoors, in natural light, because I feel like natural lighting always produces the best quality portraits.

I enjoy the challenges this course has presented me with.

Special thanks to Christian and Brandon for letting me into their 
space to photograph them. 
Checkout the music of Swell Times, Dude! here. 

My first time covering a sporting event: the Fisher Halfpipe

Action Shots:


Detroit local and professional skateboarder Christiana Smith skateboards on the Fisher Halfpipe in the Fischer Building in Detroit on Tuesday.


Professional BMX rider does a stunt on the Fisher Halfpipe in the Fisher Building in Detroit on Tuesday.

Fan Shots:


Young skateboarding fan stares in awe at skateboarders performing stunts on the Fisher Halfpipe in the Fisher Building in Detroit on Tuesday. 


Young skateboarding fans are entranced by professional skaters skateboarding on the Fisher Halfpipe in the Fisher Building in Detroit on Tuesday. 

There were no coaches present, but here are some bonus shots of similarly notable people:


Everard Findlay, the gentleman who curated the Fisher Halfpipe converses with fans in the Fisher Building in Detroit on Tuesday. 


DJ Wajeed provides the music for the Fisher Halfpipe event in the Fisher Building in Detroit on Tuesday. 

I covered the Fisher Halfpipe skating event in the Fisher Building in Detroit, MI on April 4th 2017.

This event was incredibly neat, the curator, Everard Findlay, created the Fisher Halfpipe in order to “explore the idea of the commons, and the way that certain sports, such as skateboarding, transcend barriers of race, class, and culture to draw disparate groups into community.”

I think the concept of the piece was a thoughtful, interesting, and unique exploration of the way in which sports have the ability to build bridges between people of all backgrounds. The Fisher Halfpipe is a fascinating combination of traditional sporting platform, artwork, and sociological endeavor.

I expected shooting a sporting event to be difficult, and it was. The endeavor was make extra difficult on account of my lack of suitable equipment. I don’t have an autofocus lens that produces results I like, so I had to manual focus everything. I also don’t have a zoom lens, and there were ropes that prevented patrons from getting too close to the ramp for safety reasons, so the action shots were difficult.

The first action shot I captured from a balcony, and the second I got from the main floor, leaning as far as I possibly could over the ropes.

The fan shots were the most enjoyable part for me, it was a lot of fun to hunt for neat reaction shots, and get my timing just right.

Despite the difficulty, I actually enjoyed this assignment more than I thought I would, and it got me to go to an event that I would normally not even consider attending.

Feature Hunting: An Experience


Vincent Cianni, photographer and author of “Gays in the Military” speaks about using photography as a vehicle for social change at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies “Photography for Social Change Symposium” on March 21st, 2017.


Local band Andrea Doria performs at La Perle Hookah Lounge in Wyandotte, Michigan on March 22nd 2017. In order from left to right: Parker Sturgill, Drew Hohmann, Logan Loya, and Max Grahl.


Logan Loya (left) and Max Grahl (right) perform with their band Andrea Doria at La Perle Hookah Lounge in Wyandotte, Michigan on March 22nd 2017.


Andrea Doria performs at La Hookah Lounge in Wyandotte Michigan on March 22nd 2017. Shot from outside window.


Parker Sturgill (left) and Drew Hohmann (right) chat between songs during their set at La Perle Hookah Lounge in Wyandotte, Michigan, on March 22nd 2017.

Feature hunting is far from easy. I made my first attempt to shoot an event for this assignment last week, I went to an art show wherein I discovered that artists do not like to be photographed, I got virtually no material from that event.

On Tuesday, March 21st, I attended a symposium at the College for Creative Studies on the topic of photography for social change, partially because it sounded interesting, and partially because I thought “Hey, I can shoot that.” I intended to shoot my three feature photos at this event, and that didn’t work out either. The lighting was low, the speakers stood in one spot for the entirety of their presentations (which does not make for very visually interesting photos), and it turns out that trying to shoot when you’re surrounded by people who are probably way better photographers than you is extremely nerve-wracking. Fortunately, I was able to catch one photo at this event that I was at least partially satisfied with (Really though, I hate that photo, but I’ll take it as a learning experience), this is what I used for my enterprise photo.

It was getting down to the wire, I woke up this morning with one thought in mind, “I need to kick my butt into gear and shoot something good, fast.” After spending much of the day perusing the internet for suitable events (shockingly, not a ton seemed to be happening on a Wednesday night), I came across an advertisement for the local band Andrea Doria, performing tonight, perfect. I have actually shot photos of this band before, but I was largely unsatisfied with the work I produced the first time, and I was eager to try again.

Shooting Andrea Doria was a lot of fun, but it was not easy on a technical level. The low, mood lighting of the lounge made for a relaxing and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, but it was not, however, ideal for photography. The main lights were dim, and there were a collection of multi-colored lights throughout the lounge.

I must have adjusted my levels at least twenty times in an attempt to produce good-looking photos. I even resorted to using my flash for a couple of the shots, which I normally adamantly avoid. I threw in the photo I shot from outside the window because I thought it was kind of artsy and cool looking, I’m a big fan of reflective surfaces. I ended up making the photographs monochrome in post, due to the nature of the lighting there was no way I was going to be able to balance that mess of color into anything useable, but I think the choice to go monochrome worked out, it fits with the vibe of the band.

Special thanks to Andrea Doria, check out their music here. 

On Caption Writing

I’ll be honest, I hate caption writing. I don’t usually do it, because I don’t usually shoot news/journalistic photographs. That being said, caption writing is extremely important, namely when you’re shooting journalistic photos.

There are five primary pieces of information you’ll want to include in your caption:

  1. Who?
  2. What?
  3. Where?
  4. When?
  5. Why?

It is important that you include this information in your caption so that your audience understands what is going on in the photo.

It is also important that your captions be concise. The caption should not be the focus, the photograph should, and for the most part, the photograph should be able to speak for itself. Short and clear captions allow your audience to quickly and easily gather information they may not be able to get from just looking at the photo.

The following is an example of a quality caption:


Detroit native photographer Joe Fischer photographs the local foliage at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, NC in December 2016

The caption above provides my audience with all of the pertinent information:

Who is he? Joe Fischer

What is he doing? Photographing the local foliage

Where? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When? December 2016

Additionally, if you’re captioning photographs that are not a part of a larger story, you may want to include longer, more detailed captions.


The Vital Importance of our First Amendment Rights

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is as follows,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So what exactly does our First Amendment protect, and why does it matter?

The First Amendment protects:

  1. Our right to establish and practice any religion
  2. Our right to freedom of speech
  3. Our right to freedom of press
  4. Our right to peaceably assemble
  5. Our right to petition

But why does any of this matter?

The First Amendment is vitally important to every U.S. citizen, but it is especially relevant to photojournalists.

As photojournalists it is our responsibility to accurately and fairly photograph and report things that happen in our communities. We cannot carry out this responsibility without our First Amendment rights.

Furthermore, as citizens of a democratic nation, we must be able to hold public discourse regarding the actions of our government without fear of persecution.

I would argue that our First Amendment rights are more than rights, they are the responsibilities of every U.S. citizen. We, as members of this democracy, are directly responsible for who is elected into office, and furthermore we are responsible for the policies that are put into place.

It is the responsibility of every U.S. citizen to education her/his self on candidates and policies, and to make informed and responsible voting decisions that she/he believes will benefit the country.

In addition to making responsible voting decisions, it is vital that we also make it a point to be vocal about our beliefs, it is vital that we are vocal on behalf of the greater good.

We must document and publicize important occurrences in our communities.

We must stand up.

We must speak out.

We must appreciate and freely exercise our First Amendment rights.

Because they are more than just rights,

They are responsibilities. 

I shot ten photos to exemplify ten photographic techniques

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What this assignment taught me:

I found most of these shots relatively easy to work through. However, I had a really difficult time with the Panned Action shot (to be honest, I still do not have it quite right). I do not have a ton of experience shooting action photography, so the action shots were a bit of a learning experience for me.

My Silhouette shot does not have as much contrast as I would like it to have, I want my subject to be darker and the background to be brighter, but the light I was shooting in was not quite right.

My favorite shots in this set are my Rule of Thirds shot and my Long Exposure shot, I had a ton of fun playing with long exposure, I will be doing more of that in the future.

This assignment has encouraged me to be more experimental and adventurous with light than I normally am.

Stand Up for Planned Parenthood

On February 11th, 2017, a small group of Planned Parenthood protestors gathered in front of the Planned Parenthood on Cass Ave in Detroit brandishing graphic signs depicting dead fetuses and the like. An oppositional group showed up in an effort to defend Planned Parenthood, this diverse group of individuals far outnumbered the protestors, some of them staying for hours until the very last of the Planned Parenthood protestors scurried away in defeat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I stand with Planned Parenthood.

Pictured below are the Sexual Health and Women’s services Planned Parenthood provided in 2014


Data from Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2015 Annual Report


Data from Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2015 Annual Report

Click here to learn more about Planned Parenthood. 

If you are interested in donating to the organization you can do so here. 

About Me


Photo by Joe Fischer

Hi, I’m Natalie.

I am a student at Wayne State University in the beautiful city of Detroit, and I’m currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree with a major in Social Work. My aspirations include “professional” photographer, screenwriter, and stand-up comedian. Ultimately, I decided to pursue Social Work as my primary career path because above all I have a passion for helping others. I struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and my own personal experience with mental illness has given me the drive to help other people dealing with similar issues.

My areas of academic interest include psychology, philosophy, theology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, and sexuality. I am interested in how the way that we navigate and view the world around us is affected by our languages, mental states, culture, and spirituality.

I started taking photos in 2013, and since then photography has become my favorite medium of expression. I prefer shooting 35mm film SLR cameras and I specialize in portrait work. I develop my own b/w film. I really enjoy street photography, in which I  (consensually) photograph strangers on the street. I have been employed as a photographer’s assistant at gymnastics competitions. I have been a volunteer event photographer for my local animal shelter. Additionally, a portrait of mine was accepted into a portrait competition (pictured below).


American Spirit by Natalie Dodd

One of the first cameras I ever seriously shot with was a Pentax K1000, which is commemorated forever on my leg.

Nan Goldin is my photographic idol.

“I knew from a very early age, that what I saw on TV had nothing to do with real life. So I wanted to make a record of real life. That included having a camera with me at all times.”

-Nan Goldin

Check out more of her work here.