Column: I am used to goodbyes, but this one is hard

By Kaylie Slack, Director of Photography

Kaylie Slack sits near Lake Michigan reflecting on her last staff meeting as a member of the Chronicle staff. (Abby McFarland)

I am not a sentimental person. I have moved to different states and even different countries. I have transferred schools; worked eight different jobs in four different states; and lived with best friends, strangers and all types of people in between. I am of the mentality that time goes on and the seasons change. Life does not stop and part of the journey is the end, but I would be lying if I said that leaving the Chronicle will not affect me.

I came to Columbia with dreams of making movies in Hollywood or becoming a fine arts photographer. It wasn’t until my last year (convenient, right?) that I took a journalism course and applied to the Chronicle on a whim. I was inspired by my classmates, Co-Editor-In-Chief Mari Devereaux and photojournalist Mengshin Lin, and their incredible passion and dedication to storytelling.

After bombing my interview and panicking for weeks, I was hired on as a photojournalist. The first thing General Manager Travis Truitt told me in my job offer was that this is not an easy job. And boy, was he right.

While working at the Chronicle has been stressful and hectic, I would not be who I am today without it. I discovered a passion that I didn’t know I had and shifted my career plans from fine arts photography to photojournalism—and narrative filmmaking to documentary. I realized the importance of honesty and authenticity and the value of those that lend their voices to others. I love stories, and the best stories are the true ones.

After months as a photojournalist, I was suddenly hired as director of photography after the previous director phased out, something that seemed unimaginable to me as someone who had barely even taken a journalism course. Although I still feel like I am making things up as I go along, my confidence is growing, and I am edging closer and closer to calling myself a journalist and believing it.

The faith and love that has surrounded me at the Chronicle has been unlike anything I have ever felt before. I have been given opportunities I never thought possible and worked with some of the most talented people I have ever met.

I would not be here without the support and guidance from the previous director of photography and my personal role model: Camilla Forte. Her courage, wisdom and kindness has emboldened me, and she has pushed me to grow more than I thought possible. There is not a day that goes by where I do not aspire to be more like her.

I have gained even more respect for Camilla after stepping into this role, knowing that she did it by herself. I would have fallen apart without my fearless partner and Deputy Director of Photography Abby McFarland, who balances me out in every conceivable way. Her bubbly personality, free spirit and pure heart have inspired and comforted me, and she has continually reassured me that I am not alone, in work or in life. In receiving an amazing coworker, I have also been gifted a lifelong friend.

No one achieves anything alone, and I am an amalgamation of all the people that made me, that believed in me. I think that is why leaving the Chronicle is so hard; I’m not just leaving a job, I’m leaving a family. And while I have grown accustomed to saying goodbyes, this one is hard.