PITTSBURG — You can find her photos in the yearbook, school newspaper, on the front of a magazine and soon in a book and gallery.

Pittsburg High School senior Maddy Emerson has documented life at her high school for the past four years and now she is set to graduate on Saturday.

During her high school career she participated in yearbook and the school’s newspaper.

Many of the slices of life she captured were entered into photography competitions. Just in high school, she has earned 28 awards for her photography.
“It has been a privilege to advise Maddy the last four years and watch her cultivate her passion, talent and work ethic,” her advisor Emily Smith said. “She is operating on the highest level of scholastic journalism and that is because she works very hard and has high expectations for herself. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

In her most recent submission into the 2018 Jostens Photo Contest her image went against 5,400 photographs. Maddy placed 4th out of 50 other competitors.

Maddy’s award for her placement is a certificate, a ProMaster Adventure 35 camera bag and a Powerhouse 9000 USB charger from Wolfe’s Camera. In addition to the prizes, her photograph will be printed in the 2019 Jostens Look Book and will be placed in the Caelum Gallery in Chelsea, New York on October 7, 2018 as part of the Teen Indie Awards where she is invited to partake in a photography festival.

Many of her other awards have been in Journalism Education Association contests. She also entered the Kansas Scholastic Press Association State contest where she recently won first place in academic photography and honorable mention in sports photography.

She entered a portrait competition for JEA and received a superior for a photograph she took of her friend, which then led to a surprise.

“I put it in a portrait competition for Journalism Education Association and I got superior and a few weeks later they asked me if I could send it in a different resolution or crop because they wanted it to be in their JEA magazine,” Maddy said.  “He put out a sneak peek on Facebook of that issue and it was my picture … we knew he needed it but we didn’t know it was for the cover.”

Maddy first picked up a camera when she was in 8th grade, a Canon T3i, she said.

One of the first events she covered — she remembers vividly —  was a high school football game, PHS was playing Field Kindley High School, of Coffeyville.

“It stormed so there was a delay and they had a camera crew to film the football game and it

was on 13 states on live television and I almost got run over by a football player,” Maddy said.

Despite almost getting squished by a football player, she continued shooting sports for the rest of her high school career.

“I think I’ve shot all the football games since, except maybe one,” she said.

Aside from sports, Maddy likes to photograph people doing what they are passionate about, such as her friend who dances and another friend who likes motorcycles.

Her inspiration for these photographs, Pinterest.

She also helps a local boutique with photographing its merchandise with models.

The most memorable moment she captured was celebration of life for a fellow student and friend, the late Derek Brumbaugh, she said. Brumbaugh was killed in a Feb. 28, 2016 car wreck.

Maddy said she and another friend were asked to photograph a balloon release in his honor. She said it was difficult to keep their composure, but they did their best to help document the special event.

“We took pictures of the balloon release and I was just hoping I got the shot and I did,” she said. “It’s kinda just a picture of my classmates releasing their balloons or holding on very tightly to their balloon.”

Photography is important to Maddy because the images are something many can look back on and remember, she said.

“It is important because I think that moments can fade fast … I’m glad that I’m one of those people that can keep some of those memories and save them and see them later, even if it’s hard stuff that you don’t want to see.”

Despite her four years in participating in yearbook, newspaper and many contests she does not plan to go to college for photography, however, she still plans to capture life through her lens in college.

“I cannot wait to meet people of different cultures because I love photography when it is showing someone's culture and I think that it is so interesting to take a picture of someone maybe with their home flag or something like that to show who they are,” she said.

To Maddy, photography is for everyone.

“I just think photography is one of those things that even if you are really bad at it I think you should just pick it up,” Maddy said.

“A lot of people say nowadays ‘put your phone away’ or ‘you shouldn’t use family time,’ but I always think that when you look back and you have a picture of something or with someone that maybe you don’t see very often, or maybe they passed away, you’re happy you have that moment that happened in your life.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.