Senior Column | It’s good to be different

I used to wonder why I’m at The Daily Iowan. Now, I wonder where I’d be without it.


Photo of Shivansh Ahuja. Contributed.

Shivansh Ahuja, Senior Photojournalist

As photojournalists, we’re taught to look at everything in front of us through a lens. We’re taught to press a button at the right place and the right time. We’re taught to not make it too bright or too dark. We’re taught to put the subject in focus. We’re taught to use this machine in our hands to tell a story.

After four years at The Daily Iowan, I’ve told plenty of stories. But they’ve rarely been my stories.

During Iowa football’s spring practice on May 1, I stood in the first row of Kinnick Stadium’s bleachers with a pair of cameras strapped to me. It was my job to tell the story of everything happening within those walls, from the linemen wrestling in the end zone and the post patterns being run at midfield, to the kids in the stands wanting to run after every errant punt that blew in the spring wind.

In between those chapters, however, I started to reflect on a different story: The story of how I ended up there in the first place.

I picked up a DSLR camera for the first time in high school as an outlet. Already comfortably entrenched into a STEM path, my broadcast journalism class was my escape from numbers and graphs.

I brought that interest with me to my college orientation and noticed that the student newspaper was hiring photographers. One reference led to another and suddenly I was on my first DI assignment: my class’s own freshman convocation, before I even attended a college lecture.

Things could have very easily played out completely differently. Just a few months into my career at the DI, I questioned what I was doing. Why is a kid who’s studying engineering throwing so many hours into what was, at the time, a hobby? Nobody here does what I do, and nobody here looks like I do.

I was ready to leave since I was different. Now, I’m glad I stayed because I’m different.

This hobby quickly turned into a career that I’m incredibly proud of. I took every assignment given to me as a chance to broaden my skill set. I covered presidential candidates as they made their way through Iowa. I found a home in athletic photography where I combined my passion for sports with the art of photojournalism. Before I knew it, I was jet-setting across the country to cover national tournaments and bowl games, and every occasion was an affirmation that my different approach is welcome.

I’ll always be grateful for the number of opportunities that the DI gave me to escape my comfort zone. I revel with science and math because of an everlasting aversion to writing, so I never imagined I’d be spending a day with Iowa’s winningest women’s basketball head coach to write and photograph a full-length feature about her. Earlier, you couldn’t pay me enough to do any amount of public speaking, so I never imagined I’d have anchored dozens of episodes of DITV.

I don’t know what I would have done had I quit, but I know my belief in myself wouldn’t be where it is today if I’d left because I felt too out of place. I wouldn’t have the confidence that I built up patrolling the sidelines of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, or the composure that I built trying to navigate rain delays (plural) at Jack Trice Stadium. Those realizations are more than I could have ever dreamed of getting out of a college job.

In fact, this doesn’t even feel like a job, and that’s because of the incredible people I’ve had the privilege of working with at The Daily Iowan. I co-host a sports podcast with my best friends where we vent about our favorite teams for an hour a week, and I get to call it “working.”

I’ve been ridiculously lucky to work with talented reporters, disciplined editors, and inspiring coaches across all four of my years here. Everyone who’s worked with me and believed in what I can do has brought me to where I am in my story.

And it’s a story I’ll be telling for the rest of my life.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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