Isaiah Rustad, photographer, 2020

Isaiah Rustad
Isaiah Rustad

Isn’t it funny how life presents opportunities to you? Some of our greatest breaks in life will come at the hardest times. This year was definitely one of those times for me. While most of us would have much rather enjoyed 2020 without a global pandemic, I can’t help but be grateful for some of the opportunities it’s given me.

You see, I’m a photographer, and one who was at a bit of a crossroads earlier this year. In the past, I’d photographed everything you could imagine: weddings, sports, events, products, etc. I was tired of most of it. What I really wanted was to photograph real life moments, share meaningful stories and meet interesting people along the way. Photojournalism is a great fit for that, but it’s a tough field to break into. I had no idea how to start.

Here’s where my greatest opportunity of 2020 came. After a few weeks of working part time from home, I had more free time than ever. I decided to reach out to the Southwest Journal to see if they would let me take any photos for them. To my surprise, they said yes! A week later, I was out on my first assignment. If COVID-19 had given me anything, it was this.

Now, nine months later, I’ve had the privilege to capture intimate moments between senior home residents and their families, the drama of this summer’s massive street protests and everything in between. This opportunity has shown me that I truly love photojournalism, and this fall I enrolled in an online visual journalism certificate program from the International Center of Photography.

As fast as COVID-19 gave me an opportunity with the Southwest Journal, it’s now taken it away. I’m so sad to see this newspaper stop publishing. Its presence will surely be missed in the community. I’ll never forget this year for many reasons, but one reason for sure is the opportunity to grow as a photojournalist with such a great newspaper.

For this last publication, I was asked to share some of my most memorable photos. Here are three that hold a special place in my heart.

As the coronavirus reality settled in Minneapolis in May, I spent a couple days photographing its effects on the community. This scene of customers waiting outside of Revival for their food was so surreal to me. Revival is a small restaurant with tightly packed seating, so to see social distancing outside was very at odds with the intimate vibe Revival has to me.