I tell people all the time that I don’t even remember applying for the job at The Jackson Sun eight years ago.
I got a phone call from my then manager, Steve Coffman, asking me if I had references to go with my resume; he had seen my work and liked it and was considering me for the job. I was twenty-four at the time, and if I got the job, it would be my first full-time career job in my field of journalism and photography. I was excited about it. I sent my references, and later I got a call to make a trip to Jackson to interview.
I knew about Jackson, but all I knew was Best Buy, Chick-fil-A, and Walmart—oh, and the ballpark. The only reason I knew of these places was due to my travels between my hometown of Memphis and Nashville, where I attended Tennessee State University.
When I plugged in the directions to The Jackson Sun, I did not know there was this much of Jackson that I had not seen. Downtown Jackson was a different place eight years ago. I have seen the growth, and I can say that I’ve grown with Jackson. Jackson has become a great place to live and work.
My job as a photographer for The Jackson Sun has taken me all over “the 731”—from Martin to Selmer; from Brownsville to Parsons. I’ve met many people across West Tennessee—people who are some of the nicest one would ever encounter and who truly take pride in their neighborhood.
I’ve seen students grow and now attend college. One in particular is Ryan Young. I remember photographing him during the Rose Hill Middle School black history program. Before I knew it, Ryan was in college at the University of Memphis at Lambuth performing with other students on stage for an album release.
One of my favorite events to photograph is the Miss Tennessee Pageant. It’s also one of my favorite weeks of the year. I never thought I’d enjoy pageant life, but now it’s a week that I look forward to—not simply for the competition, but for the connections I’ve made with pageant officials and the production of the event. I’m also a big fan of shooting high school sports: Friday night football in the fall; high school basketball in the winter; and baseball, softball, and soccer in the spring.
One thing I do love about the city of Jackson is the fact that I’m so close to my hometown of Memphis. I’m thankful that I’m able to go back home to visit my mom, friends, and church, but there’s still a joy in traveling east on I-40 to come back to my own bed in Jackson.
I’m big on my faith in God. It’s one thing that’s kept me going while in Jackson, and it’s also one of the reasons I believe I’m still here. I truly believe God has something for me to do here. He has kept me through storms, layoffs, and unexpected transitions. I’m content to stay here as long as it’s in God’s will for me.
The people of Jackson and the 731 area have accepted this Memphis man as one of their own. I consider many of the people I’ve encountered a part of my extended family. No matter where I go, I’ll always claim Jackson as my first adult home—the place where I learned that growing up has its ups and downs, but overall, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Working for The Jackson Sun has given me perspective that I don’t think I would have gotten in a bigger city. I see many of the same people at different events, which has allowed me to make connections to government officials, business leaders, and countless others. There are stories to be told in Jackson, and to be able to capture them via photography has been incredible.
Kenneth "Kenny" Michael Cummings is a native Memphian. Kenny moved to Jackson in 2010 to work for The Jackson Sun as a photographer. He has won numerous Associated Press awards for his photo and video journalism. When Kenny's not out taking photos, he's spending his time at the Anytime Fitness, reading the Bible, or in his kitchen cooking.