Scenes from the City: Emily Maxwell

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Written by Abby McGuire.

I am sitting down with a woman I admire very much. She is wearing sunglasses pushed back into her hair, and a part of me wants to ask if I could borrow them for a little while. She is beaming, and sunglasses would help me see her fully.


When I say Emily is something else, I mean it. I decide this after she tells me she changed her middle name to Killer Whale in the second grade.


The sun is warming us through the window and my heart is full. My blueberry bagel is going stale, but I don’t mind a bit. Emily Maxwell is something else. We immediately fall into natural conversation. So much has happened since I last saw Emily in action when we marched together in D.C. just over a year ago. I need two extra legs to kick myself for not getting in touch sooner as she openly shares her experiences with me.

When I say Emily is something else, I mean it. I decide this after she tells me she changed her middle name to Killer Whale in the second grade. Killer whale, Egyptologist, zoologist – these were the dream jobs of Emily Maxwell, and I think she is achieving them in her own way. Emily has been able to pursue a lot of her passions through writing and photographing for CityBeat, and now WCPO. She is a photojournalist and hiker by day, and I am convinced she is a killer whale by night. I cast out nets to catch Emily Maxwell’s beautiful energy, when I realize there is no possible way to tame her.


I ask her if she has ever wanted to leave, and she tells me the city has a way of reeling her in each time she tries.


Emily was born and raised in Cincinnati and the city loves her. She has worked extremely hard to pursue her passions, and now the Queen City is giving back. I ask her if she has ever wanted to leave, and she tells me the city has a way of reeling her in each time she tries. She has been able to make her mark across the world, traveling to document stories and bring them back to Cincinnati.

  Photo by Emily Maxwell.

Photo by Emily Maxwell.

She is rich in love, and I think that is what makes her shine so brightly. Her mother and grandmother fostered her creativity from a young age, and I am envious of those experiences. With her mother’s open-door policy, Emily was exposed to inspiring creatives and artists. I think this explains her childhood memories of speaking up for endangered species and Jack Hanna changing her life in the sixth grade.

I have met someone who understands the struggle of pursuing something not everyone can grasp. Emily tells me the story of her father sitting her down a week before her college graduation to tell her journalism is dead, and I can hardly stand the similarity of our coming-of-age experiences.


Emily is a driven woman, and she tells me it isn’t easy to be that way.


Emily graduated weeks later as the first photojournalism major from the University of Cincinnati. She tells the story with a smile and I smile back, because 10 years later, she is thriving.

She’s won an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy for her documentation of Coal Ash taking over the water supply of thousands of people. She has traveled to Sumatra, telling the story of the Cincinnati rhino, Harapan, returning to her home country. Now, she finishes the story of a legacy left behind by the first Chinese Emperor. Emily went to Xi’an, China with the Cincinnati Art Museum to document the story of the terracotta soldiers found in a massive mausoleum. The exhibit is now open, and it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

  Photo by Emily Maxwell.

Photo by Emily Maxwell.

Emily is a driven woman, and she tells me it isn’t easy to be that way. I think any woman can understand her sentiment. She shares a mantra I now latch onto: Everything is temporary. Working the night shift covering breaking news was hard, but it is now her past. She carries on telling the stories Cincinnati would be lost without.  


I am beginning to understand the gravity of a female tribe as she explains how grateful she is for her friendships.


I am staring at a woman that embodies so much strength, wondering who inspired her to be all that she is. Emily tells me that there isn’t necessarily one singular person. She draws energy and hope from the supportive women she has found in Cincinnati.

I am beginning to understand the gravity of a female tribe as she explains how grateful she is for her friendships. We are so lucky to be a part of something as great as our city. The women here reach out to help one another, and Emily is one of them. Her compassion for others is intoxicating and I can hear the sincerity in her voice when she describes her love for telling stories. Even when covering something as gut wrenching as childhood poverty in the greater Cincinnati area, she pushes herself to shed light on the things that matter in our city.

Emily Killer Whale Maxwell is something else, and I am happy to know her.

Read more Scenes From The City here.