My life as a photographer and UC Davis photojournalist began the first day of my junior year, Sept. 24, 2009. I remember how excited I was as I opened the box for my new Canon 40d and mounted on my 17-85mm lens. I had just taken a financial leap and spent all my summer savings for the gear, believing it would provide me the tools to create a future in photography.
Coincidentally, this also happened to be the day hundreds of Davis students had gathered to protest the proposed 32 percent tuition increase. I learned the importance of capturing emotion through images that day by framing the protesters picketing and occupying Mrak Hall. My first photo was published the next day, and I knew I had found a new passion.
I’ll remember the courage of the “Mrak 52” when eight months later our students and faculty chose to be arrested rather than end their occupation. This frustration culminated later in a UC-wide demonstration on March 4, 2010, when hundreds of outraged Davis students marched through police lines, pepper balls and tasers to have their voices heard.
These images of defiance and unrest provided some of the most challenging assignments and powerful images. However, I found the most rewarding aspect of being a photojournalist through capturing the brief moments of triumph in the lives of UC Davis students and athletes.
In 2007, my first year, Davis had just begun a new chapter in athletics. Not only did we have a new stadium – we were now a division I university. This came at a price, though; the Aggie football team was defeated repeatedly those first few seasons. However, we rose to the challenge of our new division over the years. I’ll always remember the moment we beat Cal Poly in 2009 and won the Golden Horseshoe for the first time in three years, and again in 2010.
The best part of photographing sports came when I captured a moment of glory or a glimpse of raw emotion from an athlete or team. For instance, when women’s lacrosse beat Berkeley and the whole team poured on the field in excitement or when Lance Patterson buried the golden goal in the 92nd minute for men’s soccer to beat San Jose St. last September. These are some of the moments, expressions and emotions that I will remember as UC Davis.
Photojournalism taught me to get out there, try new experiences and live completely in the college (and life) experience. Go check out that football game, take that class, join that club, ask the girl out or go to that concert. You’ll graduate sooner than you know.
Whether I was in the rain capturing victorious fist pumps or smiles from the newly announced senators or taking your picture on the quad for a roving reporter, I am grateful for everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting here at UC Davis. The moments I’ve shared with many of you in my time here has shaped and defined my college experience.
I hope my photography has made a positive impact on your time here or helped tell a story you were a part of. I’d like to thank you and The California Aggie for an unforgettable past two years.
Finally, to those graduating with me this spring, or those just beginning their college experience, remember: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
JEFF PERRY can be reached at email@example.com and is always down for outdoor adventures, photography shoots and foosball challenges.