Five Fab Fotos with Susan Angstadt, A Visual Conversation with Imaginative Professionals

Meet Susan Angstadt, Staff Photojournalist for the Reading Eagle:

Thisisme

I grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania – in the backyard of Amish country – and have worked as a photojournalist at the Reading Eagle newspaper since 2001. After earning a degree in film production from Hunter College in New York City, I studied photography at the International Center of Photography, also in NYC. My love for journalism started while living in the Hasidic area of Williamsburg Brooklyn where I was fascinated by the culture. This was further enhanced by a class I took at ICP called “documenting a community” where I went to Columbus Park in Chinatown nearly every day for weeks to document the people who practiced Tai Chi or played poker. As a photojournalist I have won numerous awards, including four Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors awards. In my spare time, I enjoy photographing anything cute and furry, older gentlemen, and documenting cultures.

Everyone talks about finding the one thing in life that makes them truly content and for me that is photography.

For more info: www.susanangstadt.com

On Twitter: @susanlangstadt

Sean Flannery Funeral

Christina E. Martin of Raleigh, N.C., who was the fiancee of Army Staff Sgt. Sean M. Flannery, watches as his casket is loaded into a hearse Tuesday. The Wyomissing native was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan.
Credit: Susan L. Angstadt/Reading Eagle

1. This was one of the hardest assignments I had covered in my then 10 years at the paper. The family allowed press to attend the services and gave us very little restrictions. It was cold and raining and I was drenched at this point–wondering if I had crossed the line of decency–was I too close to the family? I cried through the entire service and this photo happened at the very end as the body was loaded into the hearse. I had read prior to the service that Sean requested that if he died he wanted people to wear bright colors to his funeral. The red coat his fiancee wore combined with the American flag she held was absolutely heart-wrenching and beautiful at the same time. I cry each time I look at this photo. This photo placed first in the 2010 Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors awards in the Spot News category.

Hospice Volunteers

Jamie Wagner, Exeter Township, is a hospice volunteer who regularly visits Lina Snyder, 91, at Golden Living in Exeter Township. They share a laugh as they make their rounds around the nursing facility. Credit: Susan L. Angstadt/Reading Eagle

2. This was one of those assignments I was absolutely dreading. Just the word hospice sends a shiver of dread through my body. I don’t do well with death. So, I went there thinking I’m going to see volunteers sitting with people on their deathbeds. To say I was surprised and relieved is an understatement! When Lina, 91, laughed as Jamie pushed her around the floor melted my stereotype of hospice care. Lina was a “silent” laugher so the look on her face says it all as she didn’t make a sound. I have this picture hanging at work in the room I keep my equipment stored. This photo placed first in the 2009 Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors awards in the Feature category.

Shooting at West Greenwich and Tulpehocken Streets

Credit: Susan L. Angstadt/Reading Eagle

3. This photo from the shooting scene didn’t run in the paper.  Photos of dead bodies at crime scene rarely if ever run in the paper I work at.  However, this is a scene I will always remember because I got there almost at the same time as the police.  Multiple calls were coming in over the scanner in what seemed like an effort to confuse first responders as to where the shooting occurred.  I found it by following a man running down the street, clad only in a tank top at the end of November, and stopped as he stopped.  His brother was on the ground in front of him, dead after being shot in the face.   I remember not knowing what to do.  This was a dangerous area of Reading and police were just arriving—the brother was freaking out telling me “don’t you take a f*ckin photo, that’s my brother”.  The reporter was telling me “take the photo” and the police sergeant coming up behind me telling me “don’t you dare take a photo”.   After police arrived and surveyed the scene is when I took this photo.  It was the 10th murder in the city of Reading in 2008.  The body remained uncovered until the coroner arrived, more than an hour later.  I had to be escorted to my car by the police.

Fog Late night IMAGE

A pick up truck leaves the city over the Penn Street bridge amidst a cloud of fog around 3am. Credit: Susan L. Angstadt/Reading Eagle

4. This photo never ran in the paper.  It sits in their archives.   A big influence on me when I was just getting into photography was Brassai, Paris by Night series, and while probably a stretch, this really reminds me of his photos, only in color.  It was 3 AM and I had just finished covering the midnight opening of The Hunger Games for the paper and it was so beautiful outside.  I’m a sucker for light and fog.  So, against all rational thinking, I took off on foot and walked onto the Penn Street bridge in Reading and waited for a car to drive past me.  I thought the pickup truck mixed with the rear red lights was just gorgeous.  In 2011 Reading was declared the poorest city in the nation, just barely passing Flint, Michigan.   I was happy to make a pretty photo in a city most consider pretty awful.

Lenore R. Koehler

Berks County native Lenore R. Koehler, director of special project and events for the New York City Fire Department, gathers with firefights at the station across the street from the World Trade Center site. She worked with the families of dead and missing firefighters in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Credit: Susan L. Angstadt/Reading Eagle

5. It was nearing the 5 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the paper wanted to do a series on people who were from Berks County but worked and/or lived in NYC at the time of the attack.  Since I lived in NYC for 14 years prior to returning to Reading, PA I was asked to spend the week in the city photographing former folks from Berks.  This photo taught me a lot about dealing with unplanned circumstances.  I met Lenore at FDNY Engine 10, FDNY Ladder 10 on Liberty Street across from Ground Zero.  I thought her portrait needed firefighters that were working the day of the attacks and felt this was the perfect location.  I had just positioned Lenore in front of the guys when a call came over the scanner.  I think I took 3 photos and the guys scattered to get into their gear.  Fortunately, one of my “test” photos worked.

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