SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - Her work can take her to war zones of Afghanistan, to slums, refugee camps and barren wastelands where she shares her perspectives on hate, war and humanity as a prize-winning photojournalist. Recently, Lois Raimondo was found at her alma mater where she was honored for professional excellence.
Raimondo joins just six others being honored by their alma mater as a Wittenberg Fellow. She has received numerous national and international awards for her work in photojournalism. Raimondo, Wittenberg class of 1981, accepted the medal and citation from President Baird Tipson on Nov. 21. As she grasped the Olympic-like medal and held it up to the nearly 150 people who gathered in her honor and who were giving her a standing ovation, she said, "This means more to me than all the other awards because these people know me, they helped grow me up."
As she looked at the medal, she shared that it's just one more link in the very welcome chain that links her back to a place she is "very proud to be a part of." "Every part of the world that I travel, I take part of Wittenberg with me and the critical thinking that I gained from here," she added.
While on campus, Raimondo spoke to several classes and met with many students who have expressed interest in writing, journalism and social issues. She told of changing her major six times in her college career and of how journalism provides a creative outlet for her fascination with the element of the unknown. "While I'm working on a story, I get to live a life that is not my own and shake up my paradigms." Her work for The Washington Post has given her access to a broad cross-section of the world and that has afforded a whole new audience to view her images, she explained.
Raimondo also offered advice about getting interviews. "Some of my best interviews have been observations gathered while standing or sitting by myself in a flowing mix of people: a train station in New Delhi, a village market in rural China." She has learned to go places where others haven't, so she can capture pictures that many people might miss. Her interests lie in documentary photography, but she admits to being part of the 'American Media Machine' where her editors determine what she'll be covering from day to day. She said lines are often blurred between information and entertainment in the mass media today and because she is a part of it, she feels she can be critical. "When working for a daily newspaper, deadlines and page space requires that you keep churning out material in a timely matter. To be able to work on a story, dive deep into it, and be guided by the rhythms of the subject matter rather than your own work deadlines, is a luxury that comes to us too rarely."
"The stuff I really love working on is long-term stories, but we've all been turned into a 'quick' society, and the bottom line is that journalism is a business," she said. At the Post, I'm surrounded by the best of the best, and I love learning." She said she doesn't think of her traveling to get the photos people see as "going to a place and leaving; rather she feels she belongs there at that moment."
After Raimondo leaves a country such as Afghanistan and experiences some of the beauty of what it offers, she hopes her pictures will make others look more critically at their own land and culture. "What I hope to do is leave you with some questions, so you'll search for better understanding," she told the audience after receiving the Wittenberg Fellow award.
Raimondo also spoke fondly of her Afghan interpreter, Masud, who is now her trusted friend, someone who put himself on the line to save her life many times over. "I told him that I was returning to the college that created my character, and I wanted to share a lesson about the people of Afghanistan," she said. "He had this to say: 'the most important thing about Islam is that you must surrender your heart to God. In this way, everything you do, walking, talking, breathing, is a prayer and you move within the society in a prayerful way and thereby spread peace amongst the people.'"
Being named a Wittenberg Fellow is a prestigious honor, which recognizes accomplishment in a chosen field. The program, which began in 1999, elects two to five Fellows each year, and those named are asked to spend a few days on campus to interact with students, faculty and staff, offer career counseling and serve as a professional role model.
Raimondo beamed as she told a group of students and staff members her favorite aspect of being a photojournalist. "When I'm looking at a light table with an eye loop, I fall into the pictures." Whatever profession people choose, Raimondo added, they have to believe that what they're doing is important and might matter. "You have to trust your own integrity."
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