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Emily Thomas
Emily Thomas
Emily V. Thomas, of Plymouth Meeting, PA, a senior photography major at Cazenovia College, has been a photographer since she was a child. "My first camera was a Polaroid instant camera – a Christmas gift when I was nine or ten years old," she remembers." My first picture was probably of my dog or a flower in the garden. I look back now at those pictures and realize they were nothing special, just moments in time I wanted to capture."

The photos may have been nothing special, but her love for photography grew, and, Emily says, "When I realized that I could have a career in photography, I never looked back." Emily looked for a college where she could continue her favorite sport – competitive swimming and diving. She liked Cazenovia’s photography program and then discovered there was a swim team. She says, "I decided to talk to the coach and when I visited the campus and facilities at Caz, I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be."

Because no photography courses were offered in her high school, Emily wasn’t confident of her photography skills when she began her freshman year. She says, "I was nervous going into a major where everyone else probably had a class in high school and was not coming into the program blind, as I was, with no real foundation in photography. I decided that if I didn’t get an ‘A’ in my first class, I’d change my major."

Emily got her ‘A’ and received proof positive that her choice was the right one when she entered some of her photos in the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Health and Safety Photo Contest; four of her entries were published in the council’s annual calendar. Although winners were announced in August 2012, it wasn’t until January 2013 that Emily knew where her photos would be printed. Those four and others may also be used in future NVFC publications that promote safety, health and wellness in fire and emergency services.

Emily had a unique opportunity that gave her an edge in a photography class. She first began taking photos of the Plymouth Fire Company at work during her sophomore year at Cazenovia for a class. She says, "My father and brother are members of the company and one of my assignments was to photograph spot news - which for me happened to be a fire near my hometown. I didn't realize until after I turned in my first project that not everyone had access to emergency services, as I did."

Because of the family connection to the fire company, she has frequent opportunities to photograph training sessions and on-scene operations at fires and accidents. Her involvement led her to become a certified member of the International Fire Photographer’s Association (IFPA). During the course of her certification classes, she learned what to watch for, what fire investigators need to know, and how to get the photos needed without putting herself in danger.

"After hearing I was published," says Emily, "and then seeing my work in a national campaign, I was excited because that meant the men and women of the emergency service, particularly the ones I photographed, are promoting health and safety, as well as being recognized for what they do as volunteers."

Emily has praise for the photography program’s professors, Assistant Professor Neil Chowdhury, director of the photography program, and Anthony Potter, associate lecturer. She notes that their different teaching styles provide a thorough grounding in the subject. She says, "Neil is very focused on the technical aspects and is very strict about what he wants from his students, while Tony emphasizes setting up the images and lighting and is more flexible about letting students experiment."

Chowdhury says, "Emily has always been a go-getter, so news of her recognition hardly comes as a surprise. We have become used to hearing about her record-breaking exploits on the College swim team. Not surprisingly, she loves to photograph water. She's also long had a fascination with the world of firefighting and has been very focused on building a dramatic portfolio around that subject. Whether she's immersed in water or surrounded by flames, Emily has never been afraid to apply what she learns in class to service and community involvement. Her willingness to venture from campus to engage in community service, as well as her consistency and determination in achieving her goals, provide a great example for students in all fields."

Emily is a member of Cazenovia College’s Student Government Association, its chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, and the Wildcats’ Women's Swimming and Diving Team. She also coaches swim teams in Plymouth Meeting, PA, and Dewitt, NY. To facilitate her underwater photography, she is a certified SCUBA diver. She has plans to earn a master’s degree, but is focused currently on finding a position as a professional photographer after graduation. She is now working on her Senior Capstone project, a very professional venture to create a book of interviews and photographs of seasoned fire fighters, making a record in words and pictures of how they feel about the dangerous job they do.

To view Emily's portfolio online, visit her website EVT Photography.

"When I realized that I could have a career in photography, I never looked back."

Studio Art - Photography
Plymouth Meeting, PA
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