Estrada finds voice through photojournalism, wins national awards

Estrada finds voice through photojournalism, wins national awards

Junior Karla Estrada stands on her tip toes to capture an image behind the camera at a freshman football game. Despite having hearing issues and other health issues, she has found her niche in photography. (Cynthia Rangel photo)
Junior Karla Estrada stands on her tip toes to capture an image behind the camera at a freshman football game. Despite having hearing issues and other health issues, she has found her niche in photography. (Cynthia Rangel photo)

Rough forceful hands shove junior Karla Estrada, as she slips through crevices between other reporters hoping to catch a glimpse of a spectacular, fleeting moment. Estrada is on a mission and  willing to do whatever it takes to tell the story that will last a lifetime. Determined Estrada becomes forceful herself, pressing back against the sweaty figures, but she still maintains common courtesy with an “excuse me.” She grips her camera tightly and brings it up to her distressed face before snapping.

Estrada manages to capture Ariel Atkins  being thrown to the court by the opponent in the 5-A Basketball State Championship game. Not only does Karla capture the fall, but she also gets a picture that portrays a sense of what the players felt as the referee blew the whistle. She smiles knowing she has successfully captured real, human moments.

Estrada persevered through the long hauls of work and the struggles of human traffic to achieve the 2014 Award of Excellence from the National Federation of Press Women High School Contest. Estrada’s two photographs were commended out of over 3,000 entries. This is an accomplishment many high school photographers strive for but do not receive. Yet Estrada remains level headed and humbled by the opportunities she has been afforded in life.

“I am honored to be selected for this award,”  Estrada said after receiving recognition. “But it is the great moments I get to capture that means more to me.”

She said  the award has not changed her in any way, but her experience with photography itself has. Estrada underwent a transformation while being a part of the publications staff.

“I have more responsibilities and I think I’m a better person since I began this journey,” Estrada said.

Adviser James Rich has been working with Estrada since she came to him for assistance as a freshman. He said she has progressed tremendously in the past two years.

“Since Karla joined our program, she has completely come out of her shell,” Rich said.  “She was very  quiet, whereas now she is a very social person. Everyone on this staff and in the school loves her.”

Estrada has battled health issues all of her life, including partial deafness, which affected the way she was perceived by those around her earlier in life.

”I was bullied in school,” Estrada said.  “Kids did not want to be my friend. They thought I ignored them or thought I was dumb. They called me strange.”

Estrada admits she once felt voiceless but she said she found a way to express herself through her work. She says her voice is now loud and clear, though not in the traditional way.

 “I want to provide a voice for those that don’t have one,” Estrada said.  “Just like I used to lack voice.”

Panther Prints Editor in Chief Kennedy Stidham said that Estrada is a skilled photographer. She admires her ability to convey life through a still picture.

“She can make the mundane beautiful,”  Stidham said.

Stidham said Estrada is a great staff member because of her innovativeness and kindness. But she admits perseverance is Estrada’s strongest quality.

 “Her hunger for success, that’s what has gotten her where she is,” Stidham said. “She has improved tremendously from novice to expert in a little over two years because she’s hungry to be better.”

Her parents said she has possessed this trait since early childhood. Mother Rita Estrada said she learned everything she knows because of her determination.

“She was stubborn and would not stop whining till she got what she wanted which later turned into perseverance,” Rita Estrada said.

Karla said she never believed it was possible to work too hard, and that’s why she’s always striving to capture the perfect moment with the best angle and lighting.

“She once told me, ‘I never run, unless it’s to get a good picture!’,” Stidham said.

Estrada said the most meaningful relationship she has developed is with her mentor Mr. James Rich. She looks to him for inspiration to be better.

“Mr. Rich is my drive to learn and accomplish more,” Karla said.

This relationship hasn’t only affected the students she works with but others as well. Rich said he has benefitted from Karla’s infectious attitude.

“She has taught me that every moment in life is special,” Rich confesses. “She teaches me everyday to live out your dreams no matter what the cost is and do not let anything get in the way.”

Estrada said she has  her share of troubles.

“I lack confidence in myself and my work,” Karla said.

She may be doubtful about herself, but no one else is. Rich, especially, is amazed by her.

“A lot of times we see people with health problems or speech and they just give up on life,” Rich said. “Karla chose instead to communicate with a camera and not let her health be an obstacle.”

That’s all Estrada could want: to communicate and to give a voice to the voiceless. In comparison to accomplishing these goals, the award is almost meaningless.

“I want to capture moments that others will remember forever,” Estrada said.  “This is what photography is all about.”