• Wanderlost Staff

The story of Wanderlost

By: Dr. Bissell

I grew up in the Dark Ages of photojournalism, relatively speaking. I was taught to load film into a camera, 36 frames maximum, and my Canon AE-1 had a single frame, advance lever that I had to cock to the right in order to take the next picture. My dad was an amateur photographer, and I distinctly remember hanging out in our make-shift darkroom with the red safelight on watching the picture appear, magically, in the developer. This was my introduction to the world of visual storytelling through the careful selection and exposure of each precious frame to the world of darkrooms, safelights and fixer.

That magic was never lost on me, and I always loved using the camera, my limited supply of lenses and film to help me tell stories. I also remember, vividly, how I would take a picture and think to myself, that’s totally it, only to find out after developing the film that it wasn’t it at all. But, if I was lucky, maybe another frame that had not struck me at the time as being “the one” wound up being “the one”.

I was trained in photojournalism just before the industry moved into the digital realm, and because of that, I overshot the heck out of all of my assignments, when financed by the newspaper or magazine, because I never quite knew what I’d have after rolling my film onto the reel and placing it into the canister for the developer, wash, and fix phases. There was something about the unknown though that kept the process magical. It also kept me on my toes because when working on deadline and factoring in the time it took to process film and a print, the shooting window narrowed considerably.

When I got the call to come to The University of Alabama and start a sequence in visual journalism, I could not have been happier or more grateful. I was getting a chance to bring together two passions—what I did with the camera and what I (attempted) to do in front of a classroom. I can’t say I felt more joy than seeing a student follow his or her own dream in visual storytelling. There has always been something about seeing that lightbulb moment in someone else make the hard work, the time, the effort, and the frustrations all worthwhile.

My dream to bring it full circle for students was realized in the international journalism courses I taught and the magazines my students produced as a result of those courses. I’ve had the very good fortune of traveling with students internationally nine times to create and produce print and digital magazines. And these nine issues of Alpine Living Magazine or VIDA Magazine have literally represented some of the best and some of my most favorite students I’ve ever worked with. My photo editors and photojournalism staff have been especially stellar, and even though there was nothing I wanted to do more than see everyone’s photos from the day, I knew each issue was in good hands with the photo editors in place. These previous nine issues have won at least 23 international awards, and I could not be more proud of the students and the work they produced.

This year, photojournalism and teaching came full circle. After both previous magazines were put on a hiatus, the photo students I had worked with most recently came to me with a plan—just focus on the photos. Without the pressure of having to hit a print deadline and worry about those printing costs, the idea of just letting students refine their craft was certainly appealing. And, Wanderlost Magazine was envisioned. This time my group represented photographers only, and one of the best parts of each day came when all five of us were out photographing basically the same thing, but we wound up with completely different frames. Each of them had a different point of view, a different perspective, saw something different with the light, or had a favorite lens. At night while hanging out in the Air BNB in Bournemouth, our home for the week, we took great pleasure in flipping our laptops around to show the rest of the group a favorite frame.

While Wanderlost will be unlike any other publication we’ve produced out of international journalism courses, I am guessing these stories will take each viewer on a pretty spectacular journey—from the busy streets and iconic locations in London to the Jurassic Coast along the southeast border of England to the small island with a little French influence in the Channel Islands. We only spent a week in the southern part of England, but I could easily spend a month and not go north of Stonehedge.

Take it all in. Enjoy these stories from the eyes of four amazing photographers, and make plans for your next international vacation!