Hattiesburg native launches freelance photography career

University of Mississippi alumni Ariel Cobbert, during a photo shoot. The subject is covered in circles of light. Submitted photo,
University of Mississippi alumni Ariel Cobbert during a photo shoot. Submitted photo,

Morgan Westemeier
Oxford Stories

It is often said that a picture can tell a thousand words. Ariel Cobbert, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate, has taken that simple phrase and created an interesting career.

“I was more interested in photography first than journalism,” said Cobbert. Expressing a story through a photo has driven her career.

Cobbert grew up in Hattiesburg and was the oldest of three boys and four girls. It made her an extrovert.

“It definitely shaped my childhood and probably created some of the best memories,” she said.

Her interest in photographic journalism and enjoyment of social situations pushed Cobbert to join her high school newspaper and later The Daily Mississippian at UM her freshman year. Through her high school newspaper, she entered a journalism contest at the UM School of Journalism and New Media and won multiple photo competitions and a full ride to the UM.

Cobbert studied print journalism and minored in African American studies. She worked for The Daily Mississippian and participated in many programs at the journalism school throughout her college career.

“They offered me a full ride,” she said. “That’s pretty much why I went.”

She made many lifelong friends and connections at Ole Miss.

“She’s a great photographer,” says Brittany Brown, a fellow graduate of the UM School of Journalism and New Media and close friend of Cobbert. Brown said one of her favorite college memories was a study abroad trip she took with Cobbert to Puerto Rico in January 2019 to report on the long-term effects of Hurricane Maria. Cobbert was her mentor.

Photographer Ariel Cobbert working in freelance photography. Angled rays of light fall over her subject. Submitted Photo
Photographer Ariel Cobbert working in freelance photography. Submitted Photo

“It was a really sort of a unique and refreshing experience to be on that study abroad trip and to be mentored by a friend,” said Brown.

During their time at UM, they worked together on numerous projects through the school and outside of it.

“We actually ended up doing this day-long creative project,” Brown said, recalling one summer when she and Cobbert decided to do a photo shoot together at Sardis Lake. “It was really out of the blue and random, but I was like I want to try something new and do some creative photography.

“I really stepped outside of my box, but it really felt like she was in her own wheelhouse . . .,” Brown said. “She created a vision from start to finish. She has a very keen eye for making images beautiful.”

Through Cobbert’s academic career at UM, she participated in study abroad trips to places like Africa and Sri Lanka. She also attended weekend reporting trips with the now-retired Bill Rose, one of her favorite professors.

The summer after graduating from UM in 2018, Cobbert interned at the Daily Press in Newport News Virginia. After that, she moved to Memphis to intern with The Commercial Appeal.

In January of 2019 when her previous internship ended, she began working for Vision Roots, a film company that has since changed names. After working some freelance jobs, she later worked at the paper for two years until she felt she was burning out.

“I’ve never wanted to be one of those people that hate going to work,” she said. “I never want to be burnt out of photography.”

Ariel Cobbert working as a photographer after attending the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. She is pictured holding a large camera and wearing a mask. Submitted Photo
Ariel Cobbert working as a photographer after attending the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. Submitted Photo

Cobbert wanted to make sure she did not get tired of doing what she loved. Since December of last year, she has been a full-time freelance photographer.

“I want to continue to create for different outlets and just don’t let anything hold me back,” she said. “That’s pretty much the main goal.”

Cobbert has also shot for the Smithsonian, National Geographic, assisted a shoot for a Gap campaign and photographed Donald Trump and Joe Biden on assignment.

“It’s been really cool working for a bunch of different publications,” said Cobbert. “I want to enjoy it. I’m glad I took the risk, and I also want to book a lot of clients and make money.”

Cobbert said she wants to take every opportunity, get paid her worth and have fun.

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