By Stephanie Stevens
One of the key benefits of being in a program at UC San Diego Extension is having the opportunity to apply skills that a student has learned in class to real-world experiences. Professional photojournalist and instructor Peggy Peattie offered such an opportunity when she took her entire photojournalism class to the San Diego Special Olympics last fall to gain experience and confidence photographing strangers.
How did you initially get involved with Special Olympics?
I am in an outrigger paddling club with the program director for San Diego Special Olympics. I asked her if she needed photographs of their events, and she gave an enthusiastic yes.
Are the Southern California Special Olympics something that you’re involved with annually, or was this a new venture?
This was a new endeavor as far as bringing students. I've photographed many of their events and individual athlete stories over the past twenty years in my position as a staff photographer at the San Diego Union-Tribune.
What were your favorite aspects of this project?
Definitely my favorite aspect of this project was seeing the faces of the athletes when they saw us bring out our cameras and talked with them about their sport. The athletes all felt like rock stars. This was at a bowling alley where this particular group was practicing for an upcoming competition. Many of the athletes participate in other sports as well, and bowling is not one of those high-profile sports like track or baseball.
My second favorite aspect was seeing the student photographers realize photographing strangers isn't as difficult as they imagined it would be. I think this was the perfect way to introduce the students to photographing people they don't know. The athletes were friendly, once they got used to being followed they stopped smiling and acting for the camera and went back to just being themselves. The students were genuinely beaming at the end of our three-hour session.
What would you change if you could do it all over again (if anything)?
Bowling is hard to shoot because you can't get in front of the athletes (or you'd get hit with bowling balls). I might choose a different sport.
Special thanks to the photographers for sharing their work including Anita Martinez, Anna Fadul, Michele Roux, Nick Deason, Allan Pakett, and instructor Peggy Peattie, and to the athletes for allowing the photographers to take pictures of them.