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Amelia Bystry

This, that and the odder

Some of you may know I have been taking pictures for the Bureau County Republican for about eight months. I had my first pictures in the paper last year toward the end of July. After the initial thrilling excitement that my pictures were actually in the paper, I still love it. The best part is all my adventures.

Every week, usually on a Thursday, either Terri Simon or Donna Barker calls me and gives me a few places to take pictures during the weekend. The places they assign me are all over the area. I have learned where all the different towns are around Bureau County. Because I’m not 16 yet, my mom usually drives me everywhere. She is learning right along with me. Sometimes I go to Arlington, Ladd or Cherry, and sometimes I go to Manlius, Sheffield or Walnut. Even though most of my assignments involve taking pictures of people eating or serving food, each trip ends up being its own journey.

Because of all the snow this winter, some of my assignments were difficult to attend.  One night my mom and I headed to Walnut after Saturday Mass. I was sent to a spaghetti supper at a church. When we left Princeton, it was snowing a lot, but we thought it was probably OK to continue on. By about halfway, my mom was saying, “It’s pretty bad out. I don’t think we should have come.” 

As we were nearing Walnut we started thinking that nobody would show up because the snow was so bad. Convinced the trip was a complete waste of time, my mom got all excited when we pulled in and the first thing we saw were tons of cars outside a building. Inside the building was a room full of people, and there were balloons on all the tables. My mom pulled into this made-up parking spot right out front and said, “This will make great pictures.”

What she had completely failed to see was the big sign in the front shaped like a No. 1. On the sign was “Callie Jo” with a big bunch of balloons attached. I then had to inform my very excited mother this was a birthday party, not a spaghetti supper. It wasn’t even in a church. When we found our correct destination, there ended up being plenty of people to photograph. The entire way home we were laughing about what would have happened if I had walked into Callie Jo’s birthday party ready to take pictures.

I have learned through experience to identify myself before I start taking pictures of children. I was assigned to go and take pictures around Christmas time of Santa Claus with kids on his lap. I would take the picture, and then tell the parents I was with the newspaper and ask for the child’s name.  

I had met the lady in charge of the Santa program before at a library assignment, but she didn’t remember that I was with the paper, and she did not recognize me from the library program. The entire time I was taking pictures she kept staring at me. When she realized who I was, she came over and told my mom and me she thought I was stalking all of the kids. She said, “I thought she was with one family, and then she started taking pictures of another family’s kid.” I recently ran into her, and she jokingly said, “Oh there is the child stalker.”  

Another thing I have slowly learned since I have been taking pictures at the newspaper is what you should wear to different assignments. In the last two months, I have been assigned to two wild game dinners. The first one was in Manlius. My dad took me, and as soon I walked through the door, I wished I hadn’t worn my bright mustard yellow swing coat. I was surrounded by people in camouflage jackets and pants. I looked like a giant yellow canary in Alaska. I tried to take all the pictures quickly and get out of there.  When I got home I told my mom that if I ever went to one of those again I would borrow my brother’s camouflage jacket.  

A few weeks later my mom told me I had to take pictures in Malden. I had asked her multiple times what I was taking pictures of, but it never actually registered to me that it was another wild game dinner until we pulled up and I saw all of the pickup trucks. This time my outfit was much worse. I had on an extremely sparkly cardigan and heels. My mom ditched me and stayed in the car.  As I went in I thought, “I’ll just take them quickly; it can’t be much worse than the other one.”  

I was wrong because there was only one other girl in the entire room. I stuck out SO bad. After I listened to a few of his jokes first (that I did not understand), I told the guy who was at the table in charge of raffle tickets, that I was from the paper. I really think I heard it slowly make its way through the small crowded room of men who did or didn’t want their picture taken, “She’s from the paper.”

All of my experiences teach me something new. I am getting really good at handling difficult personalities or just laughing at jokes that I truly don’t get. I love seeing all the pictures I take at the end of an assignment and showing them to my mom. I hope people are starting to recognize me and know that I am there to take pictures for the paper and that I am not just some child stalker that sticks out.  

Amelia Bystry, 15, resides in rural Princeton. You can contact Amelia at.amelia_bystry@yahoo.com.