Young Guns 19: Emily Rhyne

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Oct 27, 2021

Featuring the creative stars of Young Guns 19

A year and a half of uncertainty across the creative industry and beyond has finally given way to a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel — a spotlight with a great big "YG19" standing in the middle of it. After more than 70 acclaimed creatives from around the world and across a multitude of disciplines reviewed hundreds of submissions, whittling them down to a formidable finalist list, we can finally reveal the phenomenal winners of Young Guns 19!

This year, we welcome a diverse class of 32 inductees into the exclusive Young Guns family, a collection of young creative talent that is already near the top of their game — and will only get better. These are the designers, the art directors, the illustrators, the filmmakers, the animators, the multidisciplinary artists whose names you'll want to know — if you aren't already following their every move, that is.

Ahead of the Young Guns 19 Ceremony + Party taking place on Wednesday, November 17 — our first in-person event since the pandemic began — we are featuring the future legends who will be stepping into the spotlight that evening.



Brooklyn, New York


Wilson, North Carolina


When did you first hear about Young Guns?

I first heard about Young Guns from my colleague and past winner Larry Buchanan. He spoke so highly of this creative community and encouraged me to submit my portfolio. When I initially found out I was a finalist, I was blown away. The talent amongst the other finalists and winners is through the roof. It's hard to believe that everyone in this group is under 30 years old. I'm honored to be recognized next to them and I'm excited to meet everyone in person.

"When I initially found out I was a finalist, I was blown away. The talent amongst the other finalists and winners is through the roof. It's hard to believe that everyone in this group is under 30 years old."

Congrats, first-timer! What made you enter this year?

I entered because past winner Larry Buchanan put the competition on my radar by nominating me.

I'm 28 years old, so this wasn't my last chance to enter Young Guns, but I knew I wanted to enter after Larry nominated me. The community is loaded with such talent across so many disciplines, and I was eager to be a part of it.

Since you are only allowed to submit six projects, how did you decide which pieces were best to enter and truly reflected you and your work?

Everything in my Young Guns portfolio is work that I completed over the past three years at The New York Times. One of my favorite things about working at the Times is that I'm not locked into a specific beat or visual form, and I think my portfolio reflects that.

I definitely went back and forth on a few pieces in my portfolio, but I ultimately wanted to represent myself as someone who can jump into projects about the summer Olympics as quickly as I can tackle projects on Covid-19 and immigration. In my portfolio, you'll find everything from an interactive that takes you inside a Covid-19 ICU in Houston, Texas to a short documentary on Bob Ross.

How did you feel when you found out you won Young Guns?

I was ecstatic! After seeing the lineup of finalists, I really didn't think that I would make the final class. I was by myself in Manhattan when I received the news, and I just took a moment to reflect. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and moving to and working in New York City was a dream of mine that started in high school. This felt like a milestone moment. I'm extremely grateful to be in a city that is bursting at the seams with creativity.

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

Lord Have Mercy: Inside One of New York's Deadliest Zip Codes is my favorite project in my portfolio. I'm drawn to it because it embodies all of the things I strive for as a journalist and filmmaker– intimate access, raw moments, urgency, and humanity.

My colleague Kassie Bracken and I made this video at the very beginning of the pandemic as the first wave in New York City was subsiding. Looking back, it still feels like a unique moment in time when much of the country viewed the pandemic as a city problem and one that did not disproportionately affect poorer communities and communities of color. We now know both of these things are false. I'm grateful that we were able to document this moment in history through the lens of the Rockaway community.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you,” what would it be?

This is always such a tough question. As a journalist, you don't want your own style to overpower the story you're telling, or at worst, become the story. I used to feel a much stronger urge to define my "style," but now I take it project by project.

In my short documentary about Bob Ross, I was able to lean into a frenetic and fast-paced editing style that I absolutely love. This is obviously a heavy-handed approach that wouldn't be appropriate in a piece about Covid-19.

Things that I seek out project after project are sophisticated and elegant visuals, bullet-proof reporting, and innovation where it makes sense. I think the edit is the most important part of the creative process, and this is where I always want to push it.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career– people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

I was lucky enough to study journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill, which has a spectacular photojournalism program and network that has propelled me throughout my career. My professors at UNC, Pat Davison and Chad Stevens Heartwood, were the first people to believe in me and my potential in this industry. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today.

Liz O. Baylen took me under her wing when I was an intern at the Los Angeles Times. She pushed me to my limit on every story– no matter how big or small– and taught me invaluable lessons about being a journalist in the real world.

My first boss out of college was Mike Schmidt – he hired me at Mashable in 2015 and is now my boss again at The New York Times. I think the first person who hires you plays such an important role in your career, and I'm grateful that person is Mike.

At the Times, the list of influencers, collaborators, and mentors goes on and on. Alicia DeSantis, Ora DeKornfeld, Larry Buchanan, Kassie Bracken, Margaret Cheatham Williams, Leslye Davis, and Nancy Donaldson Gauss are a few of those people.

Just answering this question reminds me how much I love being part of a community and an industry that values collaboration and supporting one another at every stage of our careers.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

Phillip Youmans, Jessica Walsh, Sasha Arutyunova, and The Daniels are a few of the past winners that I look up to. I'm really looking forward to meeting more of the community through being part of YG19.

The pandemic of 2020 is slowly starting to taper a bit, so do you have any big goals moving forward into 2022?

After getting back from the Winter Olympics in Beijing, I would love to dive into more investigative work in 2022.

Name a professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

At some point I would love to make a feature documentary. I think the hardest part is knowing where to start, but I'm constantly on the lookout for stories that pique my interest.

Any thoughts about winning YG19?

Hanging at my desk at work is this Toni Morrison quote: "When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game."

Winning YG19 is a huge moment in my career. I'm excited to meet the other winners and learn more about what they do and how they do it. I hope that being a part of this Young Guns class empowers us all to make more work that reflects the human experience, while remembering the incredible privilege we have of being in this position.





Go check out all the Young Guns 19 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 19 Archive



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