Alumni and Friends

Dateline, Iowa: OHIO alumni photograph Iowa Caucus for world audience

Bloomberg, NBC News, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times hired Des Moines-based alumna Rachel Mummey (MA ’16 Photography) to photograph the Iowa Caucus.

Republican candidates for president traversed the Hawkeye State for months, culminating in the Iowa Caucus on January 15. The quadrennial caucus—an opening contest in the presidential election cycle—generates a spike of assignments for photojournalists like Mummey.

Other OHIO alumni traveled to Iowa to cover politics, including:

  • Maddie McGarvey (BSVC ’12), a Columbus-based freelance photographer for leading news outlets who “spent a couple days following presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis campaign around Iowa late last year for NBC News.” 
  • DC-based Haiyun Jiang (’22 MFA Communication Media Arts) documented the Iowa Caucus for The New York Times, along with Pulitzer Prize winning Times photographer Ruth Fremson who is based in metro Seattle, WA.
  • The Post and Courier in South Carolina sent staff photojournalist Grace Beahm Alford (BSVC ’99) to Iowa during the week before the caucus. “Then it dumped snow, more than 10 inches. We traveled through the snow to talk to Iowans about the GOP caucus and follow Nikki Haley on the trail,” she posted on Instagram.
  • Cincinnati-based alumna Madeleine Hordinski (BSVC ’20) was in Waukee and Clear Lake, Iowa, on December 8-10, 2023. Her photo of Nikki Haley was published January 14 by The New York Times to accompany a guest opinion essay on Haley.

Iowa as home

Rachel Mummey in snowy Des Moines before the Iowa Caucus held on January 15, 2024
Rachel Mummey in snowy Des Moines before the Iowa Caucus held on January 15, 2024.

Mummey lives in Des Moines with husband John and their dog Hera. She photographed presidential candidate Donald Trump in Mason City on January 5 for Reuters and in Waterloo on December 19 for The New York Times. Mummey’s images of candidates Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have been widely published.

Reuters and National Review spotlighted Mummey’s photo of presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy wearing Baby Yoda ears at a 2023 campaign event in Iowa.

Award-winning training at Ohio University

As a graduate student at Ohio University, Mummey was named national College Photographer of the Year in 2010, also winning a scholarship from the National Press Photographers Foundation. Five years after earning a master's degree from OHIO’s School of Visual Communication, Mummey was named Indiana News Photographers Association Photographer of the Year.

OHIO Professor Stan Alost describes Mummey as “an incredibly talented photojournalist” who stood out among skilled classmates.

“Her election coverage,” says Alost, “goes beyond the candidates’ public relations manipulation and staging to help readers understand not only the politicians, but the people they are trying to sway.”

Mummey recalls Ohio University as “a great learning community” of award-winning peers Marcus Yam (2022 Pulitzer Prize winner for Breaking News Photography), Victor J. Blue (’13 MA Photography), Maisie CrowDania Maxwell (’11 MA Photography), Maddie McGarvey (’12 BSVC), Andrea Morales (’13 Photography), Brad Vest (’13 MA Photography) and more.

The faculty, she says, had impressive experience including professional work in Washington, DC.

Advice for young photographers

Mummey encourages young people who want to break into the crowded field of political photography to document public events and protests that don’t require credentials, to build portfolios, and to share their work with photo editors.

Large events such as political rallies can involve team coverage (multiple photographers). 

“You can pitch a unique angle that might get an editor’s attention,” she says. “B-team assignments are okay.”

Addressing challenges as a political journalist

Some attendees at political events are hostile to media, says Mummey. 

At the Joni Ernst Roast and Ride, an annual political event in Iowa that attracted eight presidential candidates in June of 2023, “a big motorcycle guy” yelled at Mummey.

“Who do you think you are?” the man shouted at the photographer. 

After the crowd cleared out, Mummey and the man spoke with each other in a calmer setting. 

“He started to cry, and said he was sorry,” describing his battle with cancer and recent loss of a friend, she said.

Mummey’s advice on dealing with people who express anger toward the media: “Talk to them.”

January 22, 2024
By Ken Klein