Some of my first pictures were of people dressed like dolphins, penguins and sharks, hugging people from every continent, sunburnt and smiling with Shamu.
Sea World of San Antonio, my hometown. I worked as a photographer there for two summers. I grew up in the suburbs on the Northside, climbing fences and skateboarding under ditches into the wilderness that called my name.
I'm Tyler Keehn Cleveland.
I'm a skateboarding theologian with a devotion to drums. And I love photography, probably because I love meeting people. I want to spread joy with photography, by telling the world a great story.
"I consider my work in photojournalism as a calling..."
My journey in photojournalism began with a senior year mentorship project that brought me behind the pages of the San Antonio Express-News. I trailed the shadow of photographer William Luther, who taught me that a great photo should always possess something magical.
"You've got to position yourself in the good place to make good pictures," he would tell me.
Looking at good pictures helped me be a better photographer at San Antonio College, where I worked at The Ranger for three years with some of the best instruction in the country.
In January 2012, I arrived to much colder weather in North Texas, and Denton became my new home. My first semester at a university – and as photo-editor for a daily newspaper – appears in my memory as a rapidly-moving slideshow of images, processed and published and uploaded, my eyes running until 3 a.m. and the janitor lady walking in to clean the newsroom, as we talked about "familia."
Before graduating from UNT, I worked as photo-editor for the Hatch Visuals Agency, a student-run collective that serves clients and hosts workshops. My final semester in 2015 will always be significant for the month-long project documenting beekeepers in the Yucatan, in the Heart of Mexico project. Both videos won national awards: an SPJ Mark of Excellence, also 9th and 13th in the Hearst Journalism Program for multimedia.
I consider my work in photojournalism as a calling.
Local reporting is my passion. The stories we are telling, and the ones we are living, lay a foundation for the next generation to grow. In the midst of stereotypes and single-narratives, I want to show people the bigger picture: where is this all going? Why does all of this matter? I want to publish stories of healing, miracles, and hope in the midst of suffering.
One doesn't get into photography without confronting darkness, and light.
One doesn't seek to report the truth without knowing there are lies, without finding ugliness, and especially without witnessing the beauty among it all.