Photojournalism student enjoys success-filled couple of weeks

Apr 19, 2017

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All photos by Dominique Hessert


It's been a good month for RIT fourth-year photojournalism student Dominique Hessert.

The last few weeks for her have been filled with receiving honors, accolades and exciting personal news.

At the end of March, the National Press Photographers Foundation announced Hessert was awarded its TV News Scholarship for her video storytelling. She was one of eight college students selected by the NPPF for a $2,000 scholarship.

That coincided with several other recent noteworthy developments involving Hessert, including:

• A segment of her senior capstone project being featured on Education Week.

• Finishing first and second in the Multimedia category of the RIT chapter of the National Press Photographers Association’s 16th annual “What We Do” photojournalism competition. Hessert also was recognized as one of the honorable mentions in the category.

• Her photo essay, “The Chris Percentile,” which ran in RIT’s Reporter Magazine, winning first place in Feature Photography in the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. Here is the video version of “The Chris Percentile,” a story that follows 21-year-old Christopher Clemens’ recovery after being hit by two cars, leading to him suffering brain damage and 16 breaks in his body.

In the photo on the left, Chris’ mom, Sarah Clemens, reacts to her son mouthing Good morning” at Strong Memorial Hospital on March 3, 2016. When Chris was hit by two cars on Feb. 13, 2016, he suffered a diffused axonal injury in his brain and was in a coma until March 2. He is part of the 10 percent of DAI patients who wake up.

• Recently accepting a video production internship at media company OZY in New York City.

Hessert had the highest of praise for RIT’s photojournalism program, noting that the faculty is devoted to providing students with topnotch education and the necessary resources to ensure their success in the field. It’s that system, combined with inspiring classmates, Hessert said, that allowed her to win the NPPF scholarship.

“Others have explained to me how hard they've had to work to immerse themselves in the PJ community,”Hessert said. “It made me realize how lucky we all are to have a faculty not only to teach us, but to connect us with one another and show us how this ‘PJ world’ works, and how to succeed in it.

“To be able to represent the PJ program in even a small way is so special to me,”she added. “While I was chosen for the NPPF TV News award this year, I owe it all to the faculty and my classmates.”

A few of the amenities offered by RIT’s photojournalism program that Hessert feels have empowered her to improve as a multimedia content producer are RIT’s NPPA chapter, enriching trips to NYC and Washington, D.C., workshops and the challenging senior capstone project.

“I am humbled, and beyond grateful to the RIT PJ program and the NPPF for enabling me to earn and feel that pride,”Hessert said.

Speaking of the senior capstone, for hers, Hessert created a series of videos documenting the isolated lifestyle of one of Maine’s remote, outer islands, Isle au Haut, which has a population of 30 year-round residents. Hessert is from Mount Desert Island, Maine, so the idea for her “Isle au Haut” project developed rather naturally.

Photo on the right: Billie and Bernadine Barter watch the sun set on Oct. 9, 2016, through the window of their Isle au Haut home. They are currently the oldest residents of the 30 year-round islanders.

Hessert spent the summer of 2016 living on Isle au Haut, where she resided in a small shack, had no running water, used a nearby pond to bathe and lived on a diet centered around LUNA Bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

And that is just how Hessert preferred it.

“My living conditions enabled me to spend every moment of my summer involved with this project, and I loved every second of it,”Hessert said.

The aspect of her final project that was profiled by Education Week was titled, “Finding Home.”It is a captivating package of video, writing and photos profiling Connor Maxcy, one of the two students in Isle au Haut’s one-room schoolhouse who moved off the island to attend high school and had to adjust to mainland lifestyle.

Photo on the left: Connor Maxcy works on an assignment in Isle au Hauts two-student elementary school on June 9, 2016.