UGA Amazing Student: Taylor Gerlach
This story was originally published by UGA News as part of its Amazing Student series.
Taylor Gerlach is a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina majoring in journalism and sociology. She’s passionate about using visual storytelling for social justice and making the outdoors a more inclusive and accessible place for everyone. Currently photo editor for The Red & Black, she has interned with Ryan Seacrest Studios in Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina and backpacked the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Providence Day School
Photo editor, The Red & Black
A.B. Journalism and B.A Sociology
Top university highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
• Georgia Recruitment Team ambassador
• UGA Classic Scholar
• Photo editor at The Red & Black
• Production intern for Seacrest Studios in Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC, summer 2019
• Athens PBJ volunteer
What has it been like working at The Red & Black? What have you learned?
Working at The Red & Black has been one of the most defining experiences of my time in college. While many newsrooms are high stakes, intimidating environments, The Red & Black has been somewhere where I could grow and learn while engaging in important work with my peers. I’ve learned how to do community journalism well and lead a team of photojournalists in creating necessary content for our community.
Have you done any internships? If so, where and what did you do?
I interned with Seacrest Studios in Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the summer of 2019. There, I joined a team of other future journalists as we all hosted our own live, on-air radio and television programs that were broadcast throughout the children’s hospital each day. I learned how to use my technical skills to cultivate an environment of joy and healing with the patients and their families.
I chose to attend UGA because:
When I visited Athens and UGA as a prospective student in high school, I fell in love with the people and the culture here. I felt welcomed by everyone I met and felt like everyone was truly excited for me to become a freshman and join the UGA community. I like to stay busy and engaged in the broader community of wherever I live, so I was also drawn in by the wealth of activities and opportunities in the Athens community.
How did you pick your major?
I thought of all of the areas I was passionate about and enjoyed. The list was way too long to narrow anything down much. I did change my major a couple of times and added and subtracted other majors and minors as I discovered more about what I truly found purpose doing.
For me, it was about having real experiences in different fields and seeing what clicked. I was flexible and allowed myself to reevaluate frequently and make any changes I needed when I gained new insight or clarity.
My favorite professor is:
Mark Johnson. I love his teaching philosophy and how engaged with his students he is. He’s someone I know I can rely on for photo-related advice long after graduation.
My favorite things to do on campus are:
I really enjoy being outdoors, so I love spreading a blanket on the North Campus lawn and working on class assignments there. I also love to wander around the Lamar Dodd School of Art and admire all of the student artwork displayed there.
My favorite place to study is:
Before COVID-19, I loved to sit in 1000 Faces with a vanilla oat milk latte and study. Now, the picnic tables in downtown Athens are a new favorite spot.
When I have free time, I like:
Anything outside. I learned how to longboard during Athens’ stay-at-home orders last spring, so I like to take my longboard on the greenway. It’s rare to find me without my camera because I also love to make photos whenever I can.
Fun fact about me:
I’ve backpacked the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.
The craziest thing I’ve done is:
I booked a cheap flight to Iceland with three friends and zero plans for last spring break. We stayed in a van and had the best time wandering around the beautiful country before our flights home were canceled due to COVID-related international travel bans put in place while we were there.
We booked the next tickets we could find to the U.S. We ended up flying into Newark a day earlier than planned, so we cut our trip a little short to get out just hours before the bans went into effect. We truly just got lucky to find four tickets together and have our friend’s dad willing to drive four hours each way to get us.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with:
Jimmy Chin, an adventure photographer and climber whose work I am obsessed with.
If I knew I could not fail, I would:
Climb Mount Everest. I’ve been to the Dead Sea in Israel, so I think it would make a great line for “two truths and a lie” if I could say that I’ve been to both the highest and lowest elevations on Earth.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to:
Part of me wants to live out of a van, adopt a dog, then start in Alaska and drive down to the tip of Argentina making photos and meeting people as I go. And the other part of me that is passionate about creating safe spaces for young people wants to invest time and finances into a program for young students interested in photography. There is such a huge cost barrier to entering the field of photography, and I’d like to see it become a more accessible field, allowing everyone to share the stories that matter to them. There is something immensely powerful about having a creative voice, and I’d love to be a part of amplifying that and creating space for that in others.
Favorite UGA memory:
Last fall, I was standing in a bagel shop in Jackson, Wyoming, when I saw the byline of a photo on the front page of a local newspaper. I recognized the name as a Grady alumna, Kayla Renie, who had graduated from the photo program a year or two ahead of me, so I texted our mutual friend with a photo, simply excited to see her photos in print. We had never met before, but Kayla messaged me and offered to spend the morning getting coffee, hiking in Grand Teton National Park and sharing all about her current internship in Jackson. It was such a crazy experience to be so far from home and find a former Dawg so willing to connect.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I am passionate about:
• using visual storytelling for social justice. I want to create images and share stories that shape the world we will inhabit tomorrow. I am most passionate about photo stories that challenge stereotypes, humanize statistics, and bring a new perspective to the public eye.
• making the outdoors a more inclusive and accessible place for everyone. There is a lot of intimidation surrounding anything that you’ve never done before, so I hope to equip people with the motivation, inspiration, knowledge, and skill sets necessary to explore our beautiful world on their own through my work.
After graduation, I plan to/would like to:
Land a job in photography that allows me to be outdoors and tell impactful stories in an ethical and humanizing way.
Being here. I’ve learned the importance of being present, of investing where I am, no matter how long I’m there for. It would have been easy to view my four years in Athens as just that, four years where I would be a student passing through a college town. I’m so thankful for different roles like mine at The Red & Black that allowed me to put down roots and truly be where my feet are.Date: March 19, 2021
Editor: Dayne Young, firstname.lastname@example.org