Any Time, Anywhere: Storytelling at Boston University


(text and photos by Cydney Scott) Cydney Scott is a photojournalist at Boston University. The image above is from the photo story "BU Late at Night."

When I started as a full time staff photographer at Boston University in 2010 I was responsible - along with two veteran university shooters - for covering everything: Headshot requests, marketing shoots for the colleges’ many publications, print and online promotional visuals, retirement parties, appearances by the President, photojournalistic coverage for our online news and marketing site BU Today, images for the homepage, images for the alumni magazine Bostonia. It was a massive amount of work, and for someone who spent the prior ten years working for newspapers, the posing, polished style of marketing photography was a huge learning curve for me.

We were run ragged, as many of you reading this can relate to.

After two years of taking on every assignment and request we were given, the photo department, under Marketing and Communications, was redesigned. This created a more reasonable workload for the two staff photographers - myself and (eventually) Jackie Ricciardi. (The two more seasoned photographers who had been with me left when the redesign took place.) This department improvement included the creation of an online reference where clients could find freelancers already in the pay system at BU to cover jobs like retirement parties or headshots. The massive workload we had been drowning in for the prior two years was no more.

My title was now photojournalist for BU Today. Jackie and I would also be responsible for shooting requests from the President’s office. Everything else went to freelancers.


Screenshot of BU Today

With this change, I was able to focus again on PJ style (well, as much PJ style as you can manage when shooting for a marketing and news website). 

Now the goal for the Boston University Photography Department is to shoot two photo essays or picture stories per semester. Sometimes they are long-term and involved, sometimes they are one night of shooting. Last winter I shot a picture story about the women’s ice hockey team playing in and winning, for the first time since the 1980s, the Beanpot tournament.  A night of shooting with nice layout made for a great package for BU Today and it fulfilled the picture story quota. 


Redshirt junior Abbey Stanley (CAS) sits in quiet in the locker room before the start of the championship game Feb 12, 2019.  The women’s ice hockey Terriers stunned the Harvard Crimson at 13:38 in sudden-death overtime  to win the 41st Women’s Beanpot Tournament at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center, their first championship since 1981.


The Terriers get ready for their game against Harvard during the Beanpot Tournament.

Another time I spent the entire year following the BU Dance Team as they perfected their competition routine between studying, fundraising in order to compete, and being sideline supporters of the men’s basketball team. 


The BU dance team heads into battle during the final rounds of Dance Nationals in Daytona, Florida.

We come up with our stories in a variety of ways, from bouncing around ideas with others to learning about stories the writers are working on and recognizing which ones could have great visuals. Sometimes wandering around on Facebook or Instagram can trigger an idea. Last spring I photographed a story called BU Late at Night, which focused on campus life between the hours of 10:30PM and 2AM and the idea came from an editor from BU Today during a brainstorming session. 

For BU Late at Night, we set a deadline, discussed how many images would be used, and talked about all the different aspects of campus I could cover. I spent a lot of time emailing contacts for guidance—the engineering, chemistry and biology  departments to find someone who does lab work at night, the facilities team to feature them somewhere on campus, theater groups, the fitness center, athletics, campus cafes and so on. 

With that story, I would never come to campus in the middle of the night and simply wander. I had assignments scheduled. I was told a facilities crew member would be mopping the floor at Marsh Chapel at midnight, so I made sure I was there at midnight. I got into the dorms by walking up to some students who had come to the lobby to get their pizza, telling them what I was working on and becoming their guest. One of them introduced me to other students on their floor, and with their invitation, I would text those students periodically, “Are you guys getting together to play some board games tonight?” and when finally they did, I went and shot it. That took about six attempts.


Custodian Augustine Asante at work on one of his nightly tasks, mopping the Marsh Chapel Sanctuary floor. (Part of the 'BU Late at Night' story)


Freshman Luke Taylor (CAS) (from left), sophomore Matthew Segalla (COM), and freshmen Irene Alexakos (CGS), Emily Cobb (CAS), and Jacob Miner (CAS) play a round of Cards Against Humanity in a Warren Towers dorm room. They say they regularly gather in Miner and Taylor’s room. (Part of the 'BU Late at Night' story)

When working on projects, we continue to work on daily assignments for BU Today, The Brink, which is our online research site, and sometimes Bostonia, our alumni magazine, but the other photographer also works to pick up the slack. In a real pinch, we will call in a freelancer to cover something. 

On nights when I knew I would be working late shooting BU Late at Night, I would adjust my hours the next day. We don’t get paid overtime in BU Photo but comp time works and we use an honor system. 


A  screenshot from the BU Today series 'Office Artifacts.'

Doing picture stories at BU isn’t much different than doing them at newspapers. If I felt like hanging out with a group of students doing A, B, or C, I pitched it. Once I spotted a BU student walking down Commonwealth Ave with a black lab puppy wearing a vest that read “aspiring assistance dog,” and I chased them for a mile in order to hear her story and ultimately tell it with my camera.

So stories come from all over. 


Lise Milter holds her dog, Gem at the Canine Companions graduation ceremony in Medford, N.Y., February 10, 2017.  After the ceremony, Miltner would say goodbye to Gem, handing the dog off for her next phase of training to become and assistance dog.

Right now I’m collecting subjects for a feel-good photo essay about BU people and their pets. One man got in touch and told me he had a rescue dog, but in his spare time also flies his own plane to southern states to bring up rescue dogs for adoption up north.

Ding ding! I think I found next semester’s picture story!


“Why couldn’t the bicycle stand up by itself? It was two-tired!” Stories, suggestions, feedback welcome any time email editor Matt Cashore, Follow UPAA on Instagram, too!