Using imagery to give a voice to the voiceless

by Kai Nguyen

November 1, 2017

Multimedia Photography and Design Fellow Kathleen Flynn’s award-winning career as a photojournalist

Kathleen Flynn

Whether in North Africa or rural Louisiana, giving a voice to the voiceless has always been Kathleen Flynn’s passion and motivation behind her work as a photojournalist. Flynn graduated from Western Kentucky University, where she got her start in photojournalism, and came to Newhouse as the Multimedia Photography and Design Fellow last fall. She loves how imagery can build bridges to connect people and create understanding among communities, using its power to make the world a better place.

“To be honest, I can’t think of a better way to live my life,” says Flynn with a smile.

To Flynn, the MPD Fellowship has given her an opportunity to look at storytelling in different ways and deepen her skill set. “Just being in the learning environment at Newhouse has been re-energizing,” she says.

Flynn recently returned from a 10-week fellowship program to Liberia which was created in partnership between the Accountability Lab, a non-profit that aims to support active citizens and foster integrity, and the Newhouse Center for Global Engagement. During the 10-week period, she documented the work of the Accountability Lab, which works to strengthen accountability in a country that is still suffering the effects of a 15-year civil war.

To her, the work in Liberia was a way to support to the country that she grew to care deeply about while documenting the lives of ex-combatants post-conflict in 2007, many of whom were child soldiers. She wanted to find out how a generation of people who knew nothing but war was able to function in a country that was still reckoning with decades of bloodshed. She also worked with the University of Massachusetts to help Liberian journalists write blogs, empowering them to tell their stories with their own voices.

Flynn worked for a decade at the Tampa Bay Times and several years at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, winning prestigious awards including six regional Emmys; the Casey Medal for the nation's best reporting on children, youth and families; and honors in the National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism competition.

Flynn has taken her camera across the globe, documenting stories ranging from the wake of Hurricane Katrina to tsunami-wrecked Thailand. After covering the war in Afghanistan in 2010, she became interested in telling veterans’ stories from home. Flynn met Marine Justin Gaertner two weeks after he lost his legs and documented his story for a year. Last year, she followed up with Gaertner as a part of the PBS multi-platform project about veterans, "Veterans Coming Home." And just this past week, Flynn returned to Florida to photograph Justin’s wedding.

“In order to tell a good story, you have to build relationships,” says Flynn. “As a photojournalist, you have to genuinely care about people and the world around you."

Kai Nguyen is a sophomore photography major at the Newhouse School.