A Day on the Job With Steven Bridges


UPAA Blog 2021-22 #2- 9/23/21 (text and photos by Matt Cashore) This is a companion article to one that appears in the 2021 edition of the Contact Sheet, the UPAA annual magazine.

Steven Bridges is the Mark A. Philbrick Photographer of the Year for the second year in a row. We all see his award-winning work in the monthly and annual competitions, but what is his day-to-day work like? Spend a day-and-a-bit with Steven in this article, which was photographed August 9 and 10, 2021 on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, 7:50am: It's the first day of school for Steven's sons 12-year-old Ty, left, starting 6th grade, and 15-year-old Silas, starting 10th grade. 


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8:28am: Steven arrives on the UT-Knoxville campus, driving past a statue of coaching legend Pat Summit, who is the source of one of the two quotes Steven has pinned to his office bulletin board.


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8:33am: Steven arrives at the Office of Communications and Marketing.  The photo on the screen won Best in Show in the November 2020 Monthly Image Competition.


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8:37am: UPAA Trophies line Steven's office. On his office door he taped the phrase, "Every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast," a reference to his time as a Marine. "The Marine Corps - infantry especially - pushes you beyond the limits of what you think you can handle. Outside of the Corps, every meal is a feast, and every day is a holiday. It makes me realize, in the end, I am just taking pictures. Life is not that bad.”


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8:58am: Steven chats with Senior Graphic Designer Marcus Williamson. Marcus and Steven collaborated closely on the project that produced the Best in Show image from the 2020 Annual Photo Competition. At least on this day, Steven had no formal meetings on the calendar, but had several informal communications like this.


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9:55am: He melted. No, not really, just an attempt at a cleaner background. At the time of the visit he had yet to go mirrorless, so no flip out LCD screens to help with low angles--you gotta get your eye on the viewfinder! Steven's frequent use of low angles amuses his co-workers so much they have a slack channel of photos of Steven on the ground.


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10:02am: On the way to find move-in day activity, Steven bumps into a new student and her family. He offers a warm welcome and gives a mini-orientation.


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10:29am: Outside a dorm, Steven gets into a conversation with a mother and daughter moving in. The mother volunteers that she, too, is a photographer, which leads to a brief and enthusiastic portfolio review.


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10:46-11:24am: Move-in photos and a chat with a UT police officer.


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11:37am: Steven spots a student event calendar and makes a mental note on upcoming photo opportunities.


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11:46am: Two students have a lighthearted moment as they try to carry a bit more than realistically possible. This photo ends up being a major social media image in the following week.



1:08pm: Steven checks in with Social Media Manager Rebekah Winkler, to update her on photos he's made so far and to get input on any strategies or needs for communications on move-in.


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3:51pm: After a bit more feature hunting and a late lunch, it's back to the office for photo editing and emails.


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5:38pm: Steven goes unnoticed by a passing student as he once again does whatever it takes for a low-angle photo in the student center. He calls it a day shortly afterward and gets home around 6:30pm.


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Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, 8:27am: An 8:30am headshot appointment is going to wait a few minutes, because there's a window washer dangling from the side of the football stadium.


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8:36am: Steven takes care of the first of the morning's 4 headshot appointments.


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8:51am: More headshots. Afterward, he went back out to try and make more photos of the stadium window washer. 


"What did Tennessee? The same thing as Arkansas."  Send articles, article suggestions, comments & complaints (especially complaints!) to editor Matt Cashore, mcashore@nd.edu Follow UPAA on Instagram!