Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Day in the Life photo project celebrates campus diversity

To get a striking photo of a sunrise over the Medical Center and Central Campus, Eric Bronson pressed up against a window on the top floor of the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

On previous shoots for Michigan Photography, Bronson said he’d grown fond of the look of the Medical Campus, and thought he could capture it in a high-angle photo. “I wanted to get a shot before sunrise. I like it because it’s a perspective that we don’t ever see, and a time of day (6:30 a.m.) when people aren’t around.”


View a slideshow of the Day in the Life photography project.

To capture LSA freshman pole-vaulter Victoria Wesley in her element, Martin Vloet mounted his camera on a monopod with a 6-foot extension, stood on padding around the pit, and reached high. With his free hand, he pressed a button to activate a radio transmitter tuned to his camera, now 13 feet off the ground, to get the shot.

“I pre-focused the photo knowing she would be in the middle of the bar. I love it because it’s a different perspective,” he says. “It gives you the feeling you’re up there.”

The two shots were among thousands taken for the latest Day in the Life project by Michigan Photography. Following successful 24-hour projects last summer and fall, the midnight-to-midnight April 17 project followed a final-exams-week theme. Staff and freelance photographers fanned out over campus to take as many as 1,300 frames each. From those, each photographer presented 40-50 to fellow photographers and Michigan Photography staff, to be considered for the online slideshow presentation of 74 photos.

“We are trying to capture new faces, new settings, new ideas, and that energy that represents this incredible institution,” says Matt Schlientz, director of marketing within the Office of the Vice President for Global Communications. “This is inherent in the mission of Michigan Photography, to record the history and daily life of our campus through photography. Really, it’s the art of story telling through photography.”

Serious planning happens in the two weeks leading up to the day of the shoot. The process begins with assigning a time block to each of the nine participating photographers, and two-to-three brainstorming sessions, says Kim Haskins, manager of Michigan Photography. She also elicits ideas through the university’s Communicators’ Forum group. “We want to make sure we have well-rounded coverage of students, staff, faculty and the different geographical parts of campus,” she says.

Susan Luttenbacher, Michigan Photography customer service clerk, says scheduling is like working on a puzzle. “I schedule an event, for example at UMMA (Museum of Art), and then the photographer is on to Mendelssohn Theater. But the most interesting things might be what’s captured on the walk in between,” she says. 

One of the top four Day in the Life photos selected by Michigan Photography staff — Lon Horwedel’s early-morning shot of undergraduate LSA student Michael Ozechov — was taken on such a walk. Ozechov was spotted at a desk facing a window, with maize-colored walls behind him. The colors complement the blue house on Hill Street, its front facade columns wrapped in strings of blue lights.

Michigan Photography captures images for units across campus that vary from portraits to posed environmental shots to fast-moving news coverage. And while some of the work is somewhat prescriptive, the photographers always treat each new assignment as a way to create art that tells a story about the university.

“When I’m out wandering around, I am constantly looking for things that people are doing that might be interesting to convey in a photo, especially scenes that evoke an artistic feeling that I will compose creatively using color, shape, light or texture,” says Scott Soderberg, senior photographer.

Austin Thomason’s photo of LSA student Peter Chutcharvan gleefully spraying water in celebration of the Thai new year, a scheduled news assignment, is one example of how a photographer must have an eye for something out of the ordinary.

“I wanted to put the sunlight behind people I was photographing. There was a really dark background with the trees and buildings, Thomason says. “When the sun shines through the water from the back it stands out really, really nicely against the dark background.”