Elaine Cromie was given her first camera, a 35mm contraption with a black plastic body and a pink carrying strap, at the age of 7. With the camera, her paternal grandfather also passed along his passion for photography — a passion of which she became the sole proprietor when he died three years ago and left her with both his equipment and his love for the art.
“My grandfather was a huge influence,” Cromie said, “as well as just really the feeling that it gave me.” She quickly learned that “documentary photography and photojournalism can be vehicles for change, can be this way of writing a wrong, documenting the truth, getting someone’s story, helping someone tell their story.”
Cromie, 22, has her own story: Her mother is from Puerto Rico, and her father from Japan. She has spent time in Bolivia and Mexico but grew up in Hayden, Colo., a town of 1,789, abundant with cattle farmers, ranchers and coal miners.
Having graduated in May from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor’s in news editorial with an emphasis on digital storytelling, Cromie has turned her attention to her first long-term documentary on veterans who have been deported. The project will take her to Tijuana for five months — “or as long as my money can last me” — beginning this summer.
During past summers, Cromie served as an intern at the Hispanic Link News Service and the Longmont Times-Call in Colorado. Her long-term goal is to freelance, preferably abroad, “digging into long, in-depth stories.”
Now, a participant in The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, Cromie said she hopes to walk away with as much as she can, “whether it’s a good connection, whether it’s a great story, a great set of photos, a good friend.”
But her love of photography extends beyond the professional. Being behind the camera, she said, helped her to develop a better sense of who she is.
In photography, it’s “a lot of self-expression, a lot of self-understanding, a lot of good self-communication.”