Behind every football recap, concert review and campus event, there are photographers running all over the University of Wisconsin capturing the moments of everyday student life.
This semester, The Badger Herald’s photo editors and photographers will be discussing their experiences shooting some of these events and what it’s like to be behind the lens.
Riley Steinbrenner, Photo Editor
Despite it being the only rainy day of the week, there was no frowning face in the crowd that gathered in front of the Wisconsin Historical Society yesterday evening.
Even for us photographers — us, meaning photogs who have never met each other before in our lives but that obvious, shared struggle of balancing an umbrella in crook of an elbow to take photos created that I-know-you-on-a-personal-level feeling, ya know? — whose cameras were ever so slowly getting soaked, you could tell it was going to be a good evening ringing in UW’s newest campus landmark!
Leading up to the long-anticipated reveal of Alumni Park, which had been under construction for the past two years, volunteers treated hundreds of alumni and their families to complimentary tastings of Memorial Union foods, including pizza from Strada, Bavarian pretzel bites from the Rathskeller and, of course, campus-made Babcock ice cream from the Daily Scoop.
For the night’s special occasion, the Scoop featured their newest flavor, Alumni Park After Dark — chocolate ice cream sprinkled with white-chocolate flakes swirled in caramel ribbons (Is it too obvious I work at the Scoop?).
The UW Klezmer All Stars band provided live music throughout the half-hour of eating, mingling and pictures with Bucky Badger.
Following the pre-opening “mini-fest,” hundreds of UW alumni and donors gathered in the middle of closed-off Langdon Street for the opening program that included a tribal dance honoring the Native American land the Union sits on, as well as remarks by Wisconsin Alumni Association Emerita Paul Bonner and Chancellor Rebecca Blank.
When it comes to capturing events like this, don’t be crowd shy! Most of the time, the crowd is too busy looking at the speaker or performer. Just be aware not to get in the way of other photographers and respect the event staff’s boundaries for media.
Featured alumnus, musician Demondrae Thurman, then led the crowd in singing “If You Wanna Be a Badger,” a cue for employees to diverge a massive, Extreme-Home-Makeover-esque banner for the reveal of Alumni Park.
This is another instance to be aware of your surroundings. Event staffers have every movement planned down to a tee, and usually those movements don’t include watching out for scrambling photographers or reporters. Think like an event staffer — predict their next move and be respectful of their bubble. Good thing that nice marketing women told us photographers to back the heck out of the way just before taking this next photo.
Behind the banner, members of the UW Marching Band carried Thurman’s tune of “If You Wanna Be a Badger,” weaving the crowd up the stairs to Alumni Way, just to the right of where they finished their performance on the Central Green.
This is where the fun, parkour part of photojournalism comes in. See that photo below? Yeah, I scaled like a two-foot retaining wall for that. But, seriously, always go for those higher-viewpoint shots. Just look at how massive that crowd is! You definitely could not tell from standing down on the sidewalk.
Another creative shot to compose is when people take photos on their smartphone. This enhances the sense of capturing your subject’s perspective, and it’s pretty fun seeing how people capture memories for themselves! (Plus, they’re usually too distracted doing so to even notice you’re sticking a lens over their shoulder. Can guarantee 99.99 percent of the time).
Across from the Central Green, Alumni Way contains five engraved, limestone-and-porcelain panels 18-feet-in-length laden with posters of images featuring notable UW alumni who demonstrate service, discovery, tradition, leadership and progress — the five pillars of the Wisconsin Idea. The busts of historic alumni, including “Father of the National Parks” John Muir, are embossed in the stone.
“I’m excited about the stories of featured alumni [along Alumni Way],” alumna Lauren Klunder said. “For me it feels like a location of reflection and imagination in interest of the contribution the current students will make to our state.”
Photojournalism great, Lynsey Addario, was even featured! Addario released her autobiography, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, a few years ago. Highly recommend to anyone interested in international or documentary photography!
Off-set from Alumni Way, just left of the Red Gym, the seven-foot steel-cone Lantern illuminates nearby pavement with words of past alumni commencement speakers and images that evoke the Wisconsin Idea. The dazzling projection of these images against the sidewalk and Red Gym wall caught the attention of many young visitors.
Photographing kids is amazing — they’re so distracted most of the time, but when they fixate on something (i.e. The Lantern) it’s impossible for them to turn away. These make for some of the most genuine moments to capture. Future Badger in the making?
To the right of The Lantern, the 80-feet-long, COR-TEN steel Badger Pride Wall bears cut-outs of symbols recognizable to UW students, past and present.
One of these symbols in particular takes onlookers back to February of 1979, when students Leon Varjian and James Mallon — in keeping their “Pail and Shovel Party” campaign promise after winning election onto the Wisconsin Student Association — “buried” the Statue of Liberty on Lake Mendota.
Looping back onto Alumni Way, the sidewalk leads to Progress Point, a balcony that provides another stunning view of Lake Mendota, and — when you turn around — a new, open perspective of campus that stretches all the way to Dayton Street.
“It’s beautiful,” Blank said. “Having completing the linear space from the Kohl Center all the way out to the lake, so you can walk out to the lake to this beautiful green space. It’s just wonderful, as opposed to wandering around a weedy parking lot and finding your way around.”
Engraved lines on the balcony’s concrete platform radiate from the familiar “Numen, Lumen” emblem — UW’s Latin motto that translates to “God, our light.”
After an hour perusing and taking in all the small but meaningful details of Alumni Park, what was left of the crowd gathered behind the Red Gym for another exciting reveal — a statue of Bucky Badger which overlooks the lake.
Before campus leaders — including the vice presidents of the Wisconsin Union Directorate — unveiled the eight-foot-high “Well Red” statue, sculptor Douwe Blumberg gave opening remarks and appreciation for funding by the class of ’65, saying it was the “most exciting” piece of his career to create.
After a grateful applause, the student leaders — with the help of Bucky Badger himself — ripped off the red tarp, revealing the stained-glass-and-bronze, backpack-donning Bucky sitting atop a stack of books. With an open lap, alumni scrambled to get a picture sitting on the new Lincoln of Lake Mendota.
Members of the Gospel-choir group on campus then led the excited crowd in a revival of “Varsity,” a perfect way to end the night dedicated to praising everyone’s alma mater and its alumni.
And even when grasping the grip of your camera body takes priority over hugging the shoulder of a neighboring alumna, it’s a great day to be a Badger.