Student Photo Project Highlights
West Oneonta Fire Department
By TED MEBUST
August Heminway, a SUNY Oneonta senior currently pursuing a degree in political science and criminal justice, recently introduced an individual photojournalism project documenting the West Oneonta Fire Department. In addition to his extracurricular activities as president of the college’s Taekwondo Club, Heminway serves as president of the Photo Society. The scope of his project, Heminway noted, combined his academic and personal interests to display an aspect of local life he found to be underrepresented.
To view Heminway’s photo gallery, visit augustheminwayphoto.weebly.com.
“I’m interested in photojournalism and documentary photography, especially in the black and white medium, where I can really communicate interesting stories in a powerful way and convey the emotion and weight behind them… I want to highlight causes of justice, conflict and humanitarian issues but break them down to a more specific, relatable, focused thing,” Heminway said of his project, which he pursued in collaboration with the university’s photography department.
Heminway spoke with local volunteers during visits to the WOFD throughout the fall semester about the state of its resources and their personal stories of involvement.
“It’s a rural, underfunded volunteer department. They don’t have the resources that a paid department has… I found that one, if not both, of their trucks was over 30 years old at this point and, because their community members make up the department itself, it’s a fluctuating number that entirely revolves around who wants to be involved,” Heminway said of his conversations with WOFD Chief Walt Schmitt.
In April of 2022, Heminway presented his analysis of transitional justice and the effectiveness of current judiciary systems in the United Nations regarding war crimes at the 13th annual Undergraduate Political Science Conference hosted in SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union. While he hopes to pursue political science further after college, possibly exploring graduate school options, Heminway plans to eventually merge his passions, saying that his WOFD project is a good example of a larger story that can be told beyond upstate New York.
“While for me this was about trying to emulate a story that was important and put out good pictures, it was one that was important to be able to make known. After talking with some of the people involved with the fire department, obviously in a rural community, some people might be less inclined to have their pictures taken and their story told, so it was difficult to get through. Ultimately, they understood that it would be good for the department because it brings publicity to their stories, issues, and cause… despite their challenges and being underfunded, they were still ready to be a part of the volunteer community,” said Heminway, whose grandfather was a fire department chief in Port Chester, New York.