By Jeanine Matlow
On a study abroad program in Europe during her junior year of college, Emily Elconin fell hard for the art of photojournalism. “I immediately felt connected to what I was doing and wondered if I could make it a job one day,” she said.
Her outgoing personality and desire to connect with people makes the field a good fit for the 25-year-old, who credits grad school with fostering her growth and allowing her to explore the medium to its fullest.
Currently a freelance photojournalist based in Farmington Hills, Elconin grew up in Birmingham, graduating from Groves High School before heading to Michigan State University where she was a journalism major with a visual communications track. She finished her coursework for her master’s in photography at Syracuse University where she plans to defend her master’s project in the near future.
In the meantime, she’s been making a name for herself working for the wire service for Reuters and Bloomberg. She has also done assignments for The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Those working for the wire service are predominantly male. “It’s been pretty cool to be a young female photographer,” said Elconin. “It’s empowering to help create a path for other females and try to diversify the field. I feel special being a young woman in the industry.”
Before returning to Michigan, she worked for a newspaper in Virginia. “I moved back to be closer to family. I wanted to be happy in my personal and professional life,” she said. “It was great to reconnect with my roots.”
The pandemic wouldn’t put her creative pursuits on hold. “I felt like I couldn’t just sit around. I’m going to do my best to work around this obstacle,” said Elconin. “Photojournalism is about what’s out in the world and connecting with the people you’re photographing. Maintaining distance can be a little bit of a tricky dynamic, but my health is my priority.”
For one of her first assignments for Reuters, she photographed the rabbis at her temple, Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, doing a virtual Shabbat service. “I had never been inside an empty synagogue before. That was pretty special, that moment with them,” she said.
In April, she photographed the field hospital at the TCF Center in Detroit. “Seeing them build hospital beds was pretty surreal,” said Elconin. Her image appeared on the home page of The New York Times website the next day.
Since Michigan is a swing state, she also did a lot of election coverage, including events where masks became political. “It can be challenging to navigate, but I learned a lot about professionalism and how to handle different situations,” she said.
In addition, Elconin captured images of industries affected by the pandemic featuring holiday shoppers at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth and travelers at Detroit Metro Airport on Christmas Eve.
When Forgotten Harvest set up mobile food pantries, she covered the fallout from the virus that highlights economic hardship. “I enjoy working on stories about people who are committed to helping communities,” she said.
In a field where a picture is worth a thousand words, her talent is apparent in her compelling storytelling. “I’m really curious about people and their stories. I want to make sure they feel like their voice is being heard. I like to interact with them and it feels really good to do that through photography.”
Photo: Emily Elconin