I was grateful to have been assigned to cover my first music festival, Bonnaroo, in Manchester, Tenn., in June. I photographed some iconic figures and created a series on dreadlocks. I learned the importance of simplicity, unconventional brainstorming and being on time. This photograph of Ludacris wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t arrived 45 minutes early.
This photograph, also taken at Bonnaroo, shows a girl lost in thought at a performance of the Temper Trap. I chose a spot and sat for a few hours watching the crowd and photographing only when something struck me. It’s important for photojournalists to ask questions; however, when it comes to photographing people in their space, I learned to shoot first, ask second.
Ever heard of Rob Dyrdek? Or those chill dudes who make their living by doing impossible things in the air with bikes, skateboards and motorcycles? Welcome to Journeys Backyard BBQ Tour. This was my first assignment, and I assisted another photographer at The Tennessean.
Music in Nashville is like the beach in Miami. It’s inescapable and magical. Two street performers, Abbey and Jimbo, sought a cool snack as refuge from the brutal heat.
Locally owned stores are a big deal in Nashville. This boutique, called Pangea, was frequented by women (mostly) browsing clothing, trinkets, jewelry and bags. It was easy to meet people in the store and learn their stories.
At a Tennessee Titans’ practice, I saw how a photographer colleague operated. His level of focus was startling. Not once did I see him put down the camera. All of his energy was trained on the football field.
A big assignment was to shoot around Nashville for a self-portrait series. We had to take pictures of how we viewed Nashville, what made the city go. I explored everywhere and made friends. I found Nashville eccentric, fun and a city that just has a buzz. I took this photograph of two friends having a good time at a restaurant in Hillsboro Village.
Nashville has the largest community of Kurdish people in the country. For a series, I spent time with a family of seven Kurdish sisters, who were stunning, funny and intelligent. They made their clothes and spent most of their time with one another.
Midway through the Bonnaroo festival, a band photographer took this shot of The Tennessean’s festival photo crew in the media tent. We had the grungy look going full throttle. The connections I made with the crew, through the camping and chaos, propelled me through a summer of lasting memories.
Riley Blanks is a senior at the University of Virginia. She was a Summer 2012 Chips Quinn Scholar for The Tennessean in Nashville. Riley was a photographer and editor with College Magazine for two years. She has freelanced in and near Charlottesville, Va., for the Virginia Film Festival, C.R.A.V.E. Fashion Show and NCAA basketball games. She has photographed Division 1 varsity tennis. She worked as a videographer and photographer for two summers (2010 and 2011) for the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Blanks works for the SWAG department at her school, photographing alumni events.