Desiree Halpern: I’m not crying, I’m just photographing onions

Media Credit: Nicole Radivilov | Senior Staff Photographer

Media Credit: Nicole Radivilov | Senior Staff Photographer

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches – “30” was historically used to signify the end of a story – to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year.

Life surprises you in every way possible. The best thing you can do is capture it in its rawness and turn it into something beautiful.

There is no way I could’ve predicted that this year I would have a Trump fan yelling, “People like you are the reason this country is terrible” in my face, or that I’d be running through the pouring rain with $3,000 of equipment looking for shelter from an incoming tornado. To be honest, neither one was fun, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I had no idea that by the end of my senior year, I’d have photographed three presidential candidates, my role model Anderson Cooper and countless other people that I would’ve otherwise never crossed paths with. I’m sure Pope Francis has no idea I had to sit in a basement for six hours because of him, and Ted Cruz didn’t realize I was close enough to read his text messages. That quick smile I got from Anderson Cooper was like winning the lottery, but he unfortunately doesn’t feel the same way about me. And that’s the crazy part about photojournalism. You can capture the essence of thousands of people during your career, but they won’t know how many fences you had to jump over or blocks you had to run in high heels.

But all of that aside, my real takeaway from The Hatchet is that life comes at you from every angle. Nothing that has happened to me during college is something I expected. I started my time at GW with the hope of meeting new people after living in the same town for 18 years. Little did I know that I’d meet the entire student body and GW administration over my four years, while looking like a camera-wielding tourist everywhere I went. I didn’t think I’d get so invested in the basketball teams – enough to follow them to Philadelphia and Richmond, and adjust my work schedule to attend almost every home game. Even more so, I didn’t anticipate that my Hatchet co-workers would become my best friends.

It’s amazing how much being a photojournalist has shaped me. It brought me a creative outlet, and it brought me the stress of deadlines. It showed me that everyone has something to say, and it showed me there is ugliness and beauty in everything. It’s the art of portraying life – it taught me how to interpret my own life even when I couldn’t control it.

I preach this to my photography team all the time, but learning to be a good journalist takes courage, persistence and a little bit of confidence. And guess what? You need those things in life, too. I’ve grown so much because of my job as editor. I now have no problem crawling under University President Steven Knapp’s chair or fending for myself against a mob of angry Trump supporters because for me, a good photo is worth the risk. I’ll pass on another tornado scare, though.

I’m sad to say goodbye to my home of four years and move on to bigger and better things. (Oh hey, Columbia!) I know I’ll miss the late nights at The Hatchet and the even later nights at Hatchet parties. But I’m letting life take me on an incredible journey, and it will most definitely lead me back to all of you.

So let life come at you at full force because the opportunities it may give you are ones you might never get again. Like a good photographer, it should bring out every part of you and show you who you truly are.

Jeanine: I’m giving you that look right now. You know, the one we both have whenever the other one comes home. The “you-won’t-believe-the-day-I’ve-just-had” look. You’ve gotten me through everything, all the way from our first day on staff to the broken dishwasher to the streets of New York on St. Patrick’s Day. Your dedication as an editor was beyond impressive, and I always aspired to work as hard as you – I’ll never forget when you tried to interview someone in your sleep. But beyond that, you’re my right hand woman, my confidant and my favorite person to go out with. Thank you for being the Sex and the City girlfriend/soulmate I always needed. I better see you in New York the second you graduate so we can continue living the sitcom that is our lives.

Brandon: I always wish I had met you sooner. Nobody could’ve convinced me that one day I’d be best friends with an Asian libertarian from Virginia that drives a Mustang (soon) because that sounds made-up. We’ve spent countless nights sharing beers, inappropriate jokes and heartfelt secrets. I taught you how to wear a scarf, buy groceries and order a beer. You showed me how to be true to myself and stay confident even on the hardest days. You’re the Ash to my Misty, minus the stolen bike and the Japanese pocket monsters. I’ll need you by my side as life continues to send us more aggravatingly close basketball games and unfathomable elections results. So don’t wait too long to make the drive up to see me.

Mark: We’ve shared some unforgettable times together in the past year, especially at prom, on the roof my building with Jeanine and Brandon and in the library at Richmond. To gauge how much I value our friendship, remember that I tried to keep up our Snapchat streak while I was traveling in Eurasia. You got me addicted to Serial, made sure every weekend was lit/savage/fire and never failed to tell Brandon and me how much you love us. I’m counting on your game stories and live updates on basketball games to help me live vicariously through you. Please watch out for “your boy” Dan and try not to lose him on one of your many road trips next year. I’ll be at all of your games in New York and hopefully some at our beloved Smith Center.

Dan: You are the little brother I never had and the Philly friend I could never find at GW. When I joined staff last year, I tried to ignore you because you could shoot sports better than me. But now, I couldn’t be more excited for you to lead Photo next year. Please take all of the times I made you talk about bagels, the Phillies and Jewish grandpas as an endearing gesture of my friendship. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me at times when I’m not annoying you in a group text about basketball. I’ll always be your sideline cheerleader. Show Team Photo who’s boss.

Katie: Thank you for keeping me on my A-game all year. Without you, I’m sure I would’ve missed way too many assignments and announcements and your dedication and enthusiasm for The Hatchet are incredible assets. I hope you find an organization after graduation that will value your passion for photography as much as we do. We made a hell of a team. Keep taking those long exposures, night shots, & selfies, because I know you “love” them. #TeamPhotoForever

Colleen: From the day I met you in 2140 G, I never doubted that you would be EIC. I have known you the longest out of anyone on staff, and I can’t thank you enough for always saying hello to me in the old house because it encouraged me to stick around. Your support even got me through the “ah, yes,” and, “Mmm, that’s definitely what I wanted,” moments at 11 p.m. on a Sunday. Thank you for being the most incredible, organized, diligent leader we could have asked for. You’re destined for the best things in the world, and I hope you master that split soon.

Zach: I’m sure like everyone else on staff, I’m your best friend and occasional enemy. But what I have over almost everyone else are memories of those old photo meetings in 2140 G where you’d literally, physically intrude on our meeting by sitting at your multimedia desk. However, I learned there’s a kind, sweet person underneath that grumpy Mets fan who nobody invited to the meeting. None of us would be here without your endless efforts to keep the website running and to get all of us home safely after a Hatchet celebration. May your future be filled with puppies and decent baseball seasons.

RSG: Rachel, you perfect sunflower, you pinot noir-drinking angel. Our summer living together was so wonderful and filled with smiles. I’m still sad that we aren’t moving to New York together – yet – because we were great roommates and even better friends. The Hatchet benefited so much from your positivity and honesty, and so did I. I hope everyone you work with in the future will value your sparkling personality like we did. Mid-sized car. Tiki Bar. Roseanne Barr.

Ellie: The future of the Hatchet is in your hands, but don’t let that scare you. Keep in mind that everyone on staff is behind you, and so are all of us old people. It’s hard to believe that we joined staff at approximately the same time, and you’re training to be EIC while I’m preparing to be broke and confused in New York. Life has a bunch of surprises coming for you, and maybe one of those will be the 2017 Men of The Hatchet calendar.

Sam L.: I am constantly in awe at the things the two of us have bonded over: My Chemical Romance, Oscars dresses, skeletons, shades of purple named after death, etc. It’s not easy jumping into a leadership role, but I’ve never become comfortable working with someone as easily as I have with you. The Hatchet is a better place because of your wild Hot Seat questions and overall aura of darkness and despair that’s secretly very endearing.

Eva: TRIGGER WARNING: The Pope. I honestly wish we could’ve given those people a piece of our minds. With your sass, my sheer disappointment and our boiling anger, we could’ve made every person in that building feel guilty, but that might not go well in church. Pope aside, I’ve really valued your friendship over the past two years, and I’m confident you will slay your role next year.

Regina and Grace G.: I have been so lucky to be paired with the two of you. You keep me on my feet with creative, innovative and sometimes sassy stories. Culture has always held such an important place in my heart. Keep pushing the boundaries and continue challenging yourselves because I know you’re on the track to creating yourselves a legacy.

Nora: You are the true badass of The Hatchet and I can’t wait for you to take over the sports world. No one deserves the NIT championship as much as you – except maybe Joe, Pato and Kevin. You are my most-read author at The Hatchet, and I hope that never changes as you move on to bigger (but probably not better) publications.

Grace K.: I’d like to congratulate you for surviving a year with Brandon. There is only so much I can do to keep him from offending everyone on the third floor, and you two still manage to edit an entire newspaper in one day. You’re my go-to person for languages and videos of tiny animals. I’ve always felt comfortable with you because you know the reality of living abroad and accidentally mixing four (or more) languages together. I know that one day, when I finally accomplish my life goal of visiting India, you’ll be there to greet me and henna my hands to my heart’s content.

Jacqueline: For my first few months on staff, I seriously thought you were older than me. Wait, you are? It’s partially because of your leadership at The Hatchet, and mostly because I can hear you yelling/laughing louder than anyone else through the floorboards. News has done so well under you, and next year I can only imagine that your team will be even stronger. Remember to get a little sleep every once in awhile and – if you really need it – blast Natalie’s Rap once or twice at 11 p.m.

Robin, Lilianna and Avery: If there was ever a news squad, it’s you three (and Jeanine). From sitting on my couch for hours to somehow making the newsroom extremely loud, yet bearable at the same time, you all make working for The Hatchet so much more fun. Your strangely intense love for very specific news beats will continue to keep this paper at such a high standard. I expect more stories about rats, dead bodies and strange endowments because those are the things I actually want to read about. Special shout out to Robin for taking on NYC St. Patrick’s day with me. I’m not sure how we survived.

Sarah and Melissa: While we virtually did almost nothing together besides the infrequent headshot that I’d take and then immediately lose, I always enjoyed chiming in on your conversations. Your talent with Ops is something I can’t comprehend, especially since I’m a photographer with neither opinions nor writing skills. Melissa, I’m confident you can carry on Sarah’s legacy and give it your own flair. Sarah, you continue to one-up yourself every time you write something, and I’m sure that’ll be the case wherever you go.

Hardgrove and Olivia: I cannot express how excited I am for the two of you to be on staff with Dan – the team is going to love you both so much. I’m even a little sad that we won’t be able to work together. Please never hesitate to reach out to me when you have questions or just want to talk. I’ll be around to check on you and push you a little bit. All I ask is that you keep a small Snapchat homage to Katie and me, and occasionally ask me for help even if you don’t need it.

Sarah Mann, Deepa and Blair: They say a photographer has to start from scratch to become a videographer, and I believe it. I have no idea how you guys create “moving pictures.” Deepa, you are the best White House buddy I have ever had, and your short time on Photo will not be forgotten. Blair, there hasn’t been a single staff meeting that you haven’t made me laugh. Sarah, we have the same life, and I love it. I have never spent a moment with you that I didn’t genuinely enjoy, and I hope we keep crossing paths at really weird places.

Ryan and Victoria: J’ai assez d’envie que vous ȇtes à Paris. Vous nous manquez, mais je suis très heureuse pour vous que vous avez eu la chance de vivre dans la plus belle ville du monde. J’espère que vous allez travailler très bien avec 113, et je vous souhaite beaucoup de bonheur. C’est très difficile de recommencer la vie aux États-Unis après vivre en paradis, mais je suis sȗre que nos amies à l’Hatchet vont vous accueillir bien. Bisous!

Tyler and Melissa: Good luck with your positions next year! It’ll be hard to fill the shoes of Brandon and Zach, but I’m sure you’ll do an excellent job and give us less of a hard time than they did.

Emily and Anna: Thanks for working with me on Culture pages – they’ve been consistently awesome all semester. Your creativity will make this paper even better next year as you gain more and more experience.

My team: I’ve never been prouder of something than I am of all of you. Some of you I’ve known for years, and others have just come into my life. But what you all share is a passion for photography that makes you stand out. Thank you for dealing with me when I’m loopy on a Sunday night. Even when I seemed exhausted, I was pushing myself to be the best editor I could for all of you. I am so excited to see you all grow as photographers over the next few years. Nicole, Jordan and Kiana, thank you for sticking around and spending time with me outside of the townhouse.

Sam and Cam: Nothing says culture shock like coming back from France and sitting in between the two of you on a Sunday. Although an unlikely trio, we produced some great content and I knew the two of you were always watching out for me. The burnout may have been so strong that I could almost smell it, but that didn’t keep either of you from training me to my highest potential. Sam, thanks for being an incredible mentor and putting up with me in class. Cam, thanks for literally picking me up out of a sink at prom and not letting me take myself too seriously at prodo.

Jordan, Francis and Delaney: You all made me the editor I am today, and everything you ever taught me were things I took to heart. Whether it was directions on how to train new photographers, advice on how to get kickass visuals, or just an invite to a party, you all did things that were so important to me. I can only hope that I made the same lasting impression on my photographers.

My dearest non-Hatchet, GW friend Rachel: A true friend listens to you complain about boys and class and work. A best friend listens to you rant about every single detail of the Hatchet and actually pays attention. Thank you for the GW basketball addiction, it has defined my college experience. Your support has been my foundation for the past two years and the hardest part of moving to New York will be saying goodbye to you.

Mom, Dad, Sis, and Saphy: I couldn’t be here without you. You’ve not only supported my love for international affairs and photography, but you also funded all of it. Thank you for helping me afford photography equipment even when I said I’d never be a professional photographer. Sorry I never told you about the tornado – surprise! Mom, your daily phone calls keep me grounded, so never stop telling me about the shoes you bought or the chocolate you ate for dinner. Dad, one of the proudest moments of my life was when you told me that maybe I should pursue photojournalism as a career. Sis, although you still have no idea what I’m studying, you never fail to make me smile on the darkest of days. Saphy, I’m sorry I keep disappearing and then coming back home without explaining to you what college is. You’re a very, very good dog.

To the future of the Hatchet: Life will test you, so treat it like a photo opportunity. Do not let a rainy day keep you from taking a beautiful photo.

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