Breaking news, sports and campus news from Western Kentucky University

It’s ten years, but it feels like yesterday’: WKU photojournalism alumni return for ‘Roommates: From Western to the White House’

Adin Parks
WKU Alumnus and Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford presents at the ‘Roommates: From Western to the White House’ as part of the John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series in Jody Richards Hall on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

Jabin Botsford and Demetrius Freeman, former WKU photojournalism students and roommates and current White House photojournalists, returned to WKU for the “Roommates: From Western to the White House” event on Wednesday, March 13. 

The event was part of the John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series and included a gallery reception of photos each of them have taken throughout their careers. These included some of the most iconic shots from the presidencies of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

As the alumni took a trip down memory lane through Jody Richards Hall, they each commented on how it did not feel like it had been ten years since their graduation.

“It’s ten years, but it feels like yesterday,” Botsford said.

They presented their work in the Jody Richards Hall Auditorium, showing how their photos had progressed from high school, to college, to career opportunities and gave advice to students about how to make it in a competitive career space.

Freeman began with his first portrait photo in 2007 when he realized his love for photojournalism. Later, in 2008, he photographed former President Barack Obama during a campaign speech in Georgia.

“WKU provided the ability to learn creativity, storytelling and most importantly the love for the process,” Freeman said. “With WKU, there were opportunities to shake the nerves.”

Freeman continued his career in photojournalism after graduating from WKU covering protests, and political campaigns of all kinds. Eventually, this led him to the freelance world

“Freelancing led to a new chapter in my life. I was just enjoying the ride at this point,” Freeman said. 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Freeman began taking photos of hospitals when he had heard that morgues had begun to fill past capacity.

This is when Freeman was able to capture the first photograph showing just how full the morgues had become.

Now, Freeman works for the Washington Post photographing President Biden.

His main advice to students was to take opportunities as they come.

“That’s what photojournalism is all about, it’s about inches, and can you get somewhere where other people can’t get,” Freeman said. “White House [coverage] is all about risk and strategy.”

To close his remarks, Freeman said, “The process is long and hard, and sometimes with photojournalism, it feels like you can never get to that endpoint, but love the process, you can do it.” 

WKU Alumnus and Washington Post photographer Demetrius Freeman presents at the ‘Roommates: From Western to the White House’ as part of the John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series in Jody Richards Hall on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (Adin Parks)

Botsford began his career in high school by simply just taking photographs and using his darkroom at his school to develop photos.

During his time at WKU, he was a staff photographer for the College Heights Herald and later interned with the Washington Post.

“I interned everywhere, [and] I put in the work,” Botsford said.

Botsford continued his advice to students by encouraging them to decide on what type of photography they are passionate about, and to never leave their house or dorm room without a camera. 

“You’ve got to want it more than anything,” Botsford said. “Never stop shooting for you … stand where no one else is standing.”

Botsford gave a piece of advice on what the difference between winning an award can be from just an ordinary photo.

“The difference in a Pulitzer [and not] can sometimes be an inch to the left or the right,” Botsford said.

Marshall Canupp, junior criminology major with a photojournalism minor, was in attendance at the event and noted that he has been following Botsford’s work for years.

“As soon as they announced that Jabin and Demetrius were going to do the show I was like 100% have to go, have to see this,” Canupp said.

The biggest piece of advice Canupp plans to take with him is to always have a camera by his side.

“If you’re not with an event, you’re not getting pictures and you’re not growing,” Canupp said.

For those interested in seeing Freeman and Bostford’s work, their photographs will be displayed in the Jody Richards Hall photo gallery from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until April 19.

News Reporter Kaylee Hawkins can be reached at [email protected]

More to Discover