Some of the best photographs can capture a singular moment while telling a much deeper story at the same time.
Those are the images that really speak to William & Mary senior Jamie Holt ’22, a self-designed photojournalism and French and Francophone studies major.
“You can look at a photo and know it’s a great photo, but when you hear the photographer talking about taking it and what led up to taking it, I think that’s such a special thing,” said Holt, an aspiring professional photographer.
If present-day Holt were the photographic representation of a senior approaching Commencement, it’s important to examine all the circumstances that came together to make her the well-rounded student, photographer and young adult that she is.
“I really felt like I didn't find my personality until I came to college,” Holt said. “I'm emotional about graduating because of how much I feel I've grown as a person since being here because it's such a welcoming community.”
Holt came to William & Mary from tiny Rustburg, Virginia, eager to experience new things and excited to meet a new and diverse group of her peers.
Her college years certainly didn’t disappoint. She says by far the biggest impact W&M had on her is the people she met and relationships she plans to continue for years to come.
And through those relationships, she was introduced to a variety of new things, from foods to diverse fashion choices and so much more.
“I thought I knew who I was before I came to college. I thought that was my personality; that’s who I was. And then I came here and just transformed completely almost,” Holt said.
“Obviously there are still parts of me that are the same. I still love softball. I still love sports. I still love good Southern cooking. I had never had sushi before I came to college, and now I love sushi because one of my friends made me go eat it one night. There were personality changes, but I think I grew as a more holistic human being as well.”
The coolest place to be
Holt says she couldn’t imagine spending the last four years at any other university. Although at one time, she couldn’t remember applying.
“I can’t lie. I got waitlisted by my first choice school and forgot I had applied here,” Holt said.
She started making plans to attend another school when she received an email informing her she was accepted at William & Mary.
She attended Day For Admitted Students, and “I just loved it,” Holt said. A self-described history nerd, Holt marveled at the historic brick buildings and imagined the country’s Founding Fathers walking the same pathways.
“We’re the Alma Mater of the Nation. It’s the coolest place to be if you’re a history nerd,” Holt said.
It was at DFAS that Holt learned about William & Mary’s self-designed majors. Unable to find an in-state school that offered a photojournalism program, Holt found the next best thing with a self-designed photojournalism major at W&M.
Holt took photography classes with Lecturer Eliot Dudik in the art & art history department, courses on fake news and media literacy with film & media studies and nonfiction writing courses in the English department, among other courses, to fulfill the credit requirements.
“Jamie has been an excellent student in all four levels of photography courses she has taken with me, five if you count independent study,” Dudik said. “I could always count on her being the first student in the classroom, and she worked hard every day until the job was finished.”
Moreover, Holt received on-the-job training through her participation in The Charles Center’s Sharp Seminar collaboration with the Pulitzer Center and via the hundreds of assignments she took as the photos editor at The Flat Hat student newspaper and as an intern with W&M Athletics, the Office of Undergraduate Admission and Human Resources.
Holt photographed virtually everything while at W&M. One of her Delta Gamma sorority sisters was a member of the gymnastics team and invited Holt to photograph practices and meets. A dorm mate invited Holt to photograph a dance recital.
Athletics remains Holt’s favorite thing to shoot. She grew up playing competitive softball at the school and club levels and considered going to college to play before photography dominated her attention. Her very first assignment on the yearbook team in high school was a Friday night football game, and her first assignment with The Flat Hat was William & Mary’s 2018 home win against Colgate.
She photographed every home game after that.
Holt’s most memorable photos from her time at William & Mary are the ones that show emotion, particularly from athletic events. There is one of a volleyball player screaming in triumph after a long back-and-forth volley between teams. There’s another of a football player holding his arm and index finger high while running into the end zone for a touchdown.
“Jamie has grown tremendously in the sophistication of her photography over her four years at William & Mary, and she deserves to be recognized for that,” Dudik said. “I know few students who work as hard and as steadily as she does. And she's reached the point where she is comfortable working through projects on her own, outside of any classroom assignment.
“She independently created a well-received project about student perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, as well as a stellar body of work from the streets of Paris while studying abroad.”
Have camera, will travel
Holt owes her freshman roommate, Avery Lackner ’22, for getting her involved with her sorority, Delta Gamma, and The Flat Hat.
“She’s my best friend. I really lucked out in that department,” Holt said.
“She’s the one who got me into my sorority. She’s the one who got me to join The Flat Hat with her, because they were all things she really wanted to do. I still thank her every day for that.”
Holt joined her sorority freshman year and served as director of fundraising as a sophomore. She has also served as VP: Panhellenic and was a recruitment counselor for William & Mary’s Panhellenic Council.
She joined the staff at The Flat Hat as a freshman and served as photo editor the last three years.
When asked if she had advice for the next class of freshmen, Holt said, “Get out of your comfort zone. Join groups or do things you never thought of. Just try it. You have only four years here.”
Holt studied abroad in Paris last summer. Travel was hard because of COVID, but, “I’m still glad I went there for the unique experience that it was,” she said.
Holt studied French and took a lot of photographs, particularly of Parisians on the street.
Study abroad helped her get out of a creative rut caused by the months of seclusion because of the pandemic lockdown.
“Going abroad, I would just carry my camera with me every single day and I'd go on these really long walks,” Holt said. “It was the first time I really did street photography, but I found I love photographing strangers and other people.
“I took thousands of photos while I was over there. I think it’s probably the work I'm most proud of that I've done that isn't sports related. I've submitted to a few galleries, gotten into a few galleries with it. I’m hopefully going to put together a zine or a book at some point.”
Holt is still waiting for the next step in her life to come into view. She has applied for jobs at newspapers, magazines and major sports leagues. She is open to photographing culture, fashion, arts and food, like she did as an intern last summer for Cleveland Magazine.
“I almost have too many pathways I could go down and be happy in any of them,” said Holt, who started her own photography business while at W&M. “But it’s just which one am I going to end up landing in? Anything where I get to hold a camera and be somewhat creative, I think I’ll be OK with.”