A farewell to a photography and journalism pioneer at Algonquin College

"Shoot, shoot, shoot and have fun out there." Marilyn Mikkelsen leaves a picture-perfect legacy in Algonquin College photojournalism
Marilyn Mikkelsen photographed in a classroom at Algonquin College.

Marilyn Mikkelsen, a founding member of Algonquin College’s photography program for journalism, is retiring. Her departure marks a touching moment for Algonquin College as it bids farewell to one of its most beloved and enduring educators.

Mikkelsen’s passion for photography was joyfully shared with her students, initially teaching night courses predominantly attended by hobbyist photographers. Her transition into the journalism program gave her the opportunity to inspire and nurture aspiring journalists.

Mikkelsen’s legacy is in her enduring presence among colleagues and the wealth of knowledge she imparted to countless students. Her teaching has contributed to the award-winning Algonquin Times, with photography often taking centre stage.

Reflecting on her cherished moments at Algonquin, Mikkelsen’s greatest joy stems from witnessing her students’ enthusiasm for photography and their growth. She fondly recalls students whose professional-level work reflected her dedicated teaching.

“I used to say this at the end of all my PowerPoints: shoot, shoot, shoot and have fun out there. So, basically, the more you shoot, the better you get. The more you take pictures, the better you get to peruse what you like — look at magazines, digital newspapers, whatever. And then, when you see what you like, you can actually learn from that,” Mikkelsen said.

“You had to have all the pictures done. They had to be ready by the deadline. Otherwise, they didn’t get in the paper. So, it was like they were professional photographers and journalists working. It was a great learning curve, a great story, a great learning tool, and we could see it from the very beginning of the first semester,” Mikkelsen said.

Mikkelsen’s impact goes beyond just technical skills; she instilled a passion for storytelling through photography and journalism.

“So, my photography style is photojournalism, and that’s what I do. That’s all I’ve ever done, actually. So that was how I taught it. It was all about people and how you deal with people, how you take pictures of people in journalism and TV, whatever. Of course, I was teaching and then using, obviously, different things like depth of field and the other technical aspects along with that as well,” Mikkelsen said.

As Mikkelsen embarks on a well-deserved retirement, her legacy remains etched in the hearts and minds of her students and colleagues, a testament to her enduring influence on the world of photography and journalism at Algonquin College. Her final piece of advice was very simple: “Shoot, shoot, shoot and have fun out there.”

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