By Elizabeth Blackstock. This article was republished with the permission of the Meek School of Journalism from the upcoming issue of Meek School Magazine.
A LOVE OF PHOTOJOURNALISM LED TO A SURPRISING CAREER CHANGE
From a young age, Karl Floyd was interested in photography. “I started working for my hometown ‘Times Post’ when I was in high school,” Floyd recalls.
“I had a biology teacher who got me interested in photography, showed me how to develop film and shoot pictures. So I shot for the annual and started working for the newspaper when my mom worked there.”
Floyd was born in Taiwan and came to the United States when he and his twin brother were adopted. After moving around the United States, his father retired from the military and the family moved to Houston, Mississippi, the hometown of Floyd’s mother, from the time he was in fourth grade until he graduated from high school.
Before his senior year of high school, he had not considered where he would attend college. That was, until he visited the Ole Miss campus.
“I had a friend who was writing for the newspaper in Houston, and he and I both came up here to Oxford. Back then you could just say, ‘Oh I guess I’m going to go to Ole Miss,’ and show up. And that was pretty much the summer before school started, and we decided we were going to attend Ole Miss.”
During this first visit to Ole Miss, Floyd and his friend investigated what the journalism school had to offer.
“First time we came up here, we walked downstairs to ‘The Daily Mississippian,’ and my friend told them he could write, and I told them I could shoot pictures, and they let us get going.”
As a student, Floyd worked with The Daily Mississippian, the Associated Press, Ole Miss Public Relations and the Ole Miss Press Room. While working in Public Relations, Floyd met Robert Jordan. Jordan and Floyd lived together for one year and worked together for even longer.
Jordan recalls that Floyd was a photographer to look up to. After seeing Floyd’s photography in the The Daily Mississippian, Jordan decided they needed to meet.
“I was photographing an Ole Miss home football game, and I asked someone to point out Karl Floyd among the photographers on the sidelines. I introduced myself to Karl, struck up a conversation and we have been good friends ever since.”
Since they both were interested in the same field, Jordan recognizes that their competition with one another could have gotten the best of them. Luckily, though, it did not.
Jordan says, “We competed fiercely to get the best photos, and be published in the ‘DM,’ but because we were friends, we also shared insights, tips and techniques and helped each other become better photographers.”
In addition to his work with student media, Floyd was also a member of ROTC.
“That’s how I ended up not getting into journalism right out of college,” he explains. When it came time for him to graduate in 1985, he discussed his future plans with his adviser and decided that he would serve his country after graduating.
“I really liked journalism, but I knew I wanted to try the military, and I figured I should try it right then because I wouldn’t be able to go back and do it,” he elaborates.
After three years in the Army, Floyd moved back to Mississippi to pursue his career in photojournalism. Back home in Mississippi, he worked in local access programming for a few months before starting work as a weekend photographer for The Daily Journal in Tupelo. In the fall of 1989, The Daily Journal hired him as a full-time photographer.
At The Daily Journal, Floyd’s path crossed with one of his former coworkers at The Daily Mississippian, Eileen Bailey. She recalls Floyd’s work as extraordinary.
“Karl Floyd was, and still is, one of the best photojournalists I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” she said.
After several years with The Daily Journal, the opportunity came for Floyd to get into pig farming.
He recalls, “I was still working for the paper and they would do some stories about it, I’d go shoot pictures and I’d find out more information about it. The more I found out, the more I thought, ‘I think I want to try doing that.’”
He had always wanted to own his own business. After discovering that photography would not provide reliable income, the pig farm was his next opportunity to pursue owning his own business.
He adds, though, “I still have fond memories of being in journalism.”
Floyd would not change anything about his years at Ole Miss and his career path, saying,
“I did everything I wanted to do when I did it. I’ve always been the kind of person who said you only get one shot to go through life and look to see what you want to do.”
The most beneficial thing that Floyd did during his time as a student was getting hands-on experience.
“The reason I came to Ole Miss was ‘The Daily Mississippian.’ You could actually work with something that printed five days a week, and Mississippi State’s paper was only one or two days a week. I thought that was the best way to learn.”
His favorite part of college was doing photography at football games, saying, “I loved going to the ball games, shooting them, then printing the pictures and seeing how it turned out.”
As a result of his work in student media, he developed what would become his career for many years and continue to be a passion even when his career took him away from professional photojournalism.
“My biggest piece of advice for students today would be to get in there and do whatever it is that you want to do.”
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