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My name is Cameron Johnson, and I am — rather, was — the photo chief and graphics editor at The Battalion. I’ve covered politics, local stories, entertainment and sports.

So many sports.

I started taking photos for The Batt in November 2021, during my first in-person semester at Texas A&M University. Abbey Santoro and Bobby O’Brien, the photo chiefs, hired me, despite my meager portfolio from years of hobby photography.

My first assignment was a volleyball game against Missouri, during Senior Night. I didn’t know the players, nor had I followed their semester, but I remember watching these athletes cry in each others’ arms as they said goodbye to their graduating teammates. I thought to myself, “Is this what every assignment is like?”

I was wrong of course, there have been plenty of duds since then, but my love for this work has never diminished. Abbey eventually stepped down to focus on cross country, which made Bobby and Ishika Samant the chiefs to impress.

As my junior year went on, I got more comfortable as a staff photographer, and wanted to make friends with the editors. It felt like kindergarten all over again, trying to get the other kids to like me. 

For those who haven’t been to The Battalion office, there are two sides of the newsroom. On one side is an aisle of desks, where editors work. On the other side, beyond massive foundation columns and desk dividers, is a seating area and conference table where staffers can write, edit photos and socialize. That’s where I sat every day. I even had a favorite spot: at the conference table, next to the projector, with my back to the wall. 

When conversations would float across the room, I did my best to chime in. Admittedly, I was anxious to impress these people. Every day that semester, I would show up and make myself known, trying to help wherever I could. It wasn’t long before I got a jump on photo assignments, got handed proofs and stuck around for headline parties every week. We would get out late those nights, sometimes in the early morning, but I didn’t mind. It was only one night of the week, and it was satisfying to see our hard work the following Thursday, when the paper would hit stands.

I was assistant photo chief that summer, and had the pleasure and honor of becoming the photo chief this August. I also appointed myself the graphics editor in a shameless move to draw at my desk, and I’ve even made a few illustrations I’m proud of.

In only six months, I’ve gone to Washington D.C., covered the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium, photographed Beto O’Rourke during one of his visits to campus and menaced Jimbo Fisher with my camera on multiple occasions. My favorite moments, however, have been spent in our office, “the Batt Cave,” working and laughing with my friends.

As I frantically type this final goodbye from our 8x8 photo closet, listening to the muffled laughter of my fellow editors as they watch the Colts play the Cowboys, I’m reminded of my first Battalion assignment. Of watching perfect strangers cry in the arms of their friends, heartbroken that their time of working together had ended.

It’s not an unfamiliar feeling. It’s necessary for growth, but come this Wednesday after our final Maroon Life production, I’ll dread feeling it again.

So, to Michaela, Kyle, Kathryn, Ruben, Caleb, Caroline, Kenzie, Jordan, Zoe, Grant, Emma, Dan, Megan and Doug — my friends — you’ve made my last semester of college truly incredible. Between the excitement of my job and the experiences we’ve all shared, I feel like the second-luckiest person at A&M — next to Jordan, who is getting married after graduation. Typical sports editor, always competing.

Bobby, I try to impress you on every assignment, and I always will. You’ve become my friend, and I’ll always be grateful for you and Abbey letting me join The Batt.

Ish, I can’t overstate my excitement for you to lead the photo desk this spring. You are a great friend, and one of the best photographers working. Please call me back to the newsroom from time to time. Although I’m moving on, I want to see what’s next for you and everyone on staff.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything you’ve done for me. I love you and I sincerely hope to make you proud. Please remember that when I move my ugly exercise equipment back into the art room.

Gracie, my niece, I love you most of all. You’re growing up fast, and my college years have been less bright without seeing you as much. Big hugs promised from now to the end of time.

And thank you, dear readers. Without you, I would have nothing to work for — nothing to show. I hope I’ve done right by you, and that my short time as photo chief reflects well on our community and The Battalion. Print is not dead, student journalism matters and pictures are crucial.

So turn in photo requests on time.

Cameron Johnson is a journalism senior and the photo chief and graphics editor for The Battalion. 

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