The photo man

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

By Cade Belisle

If someone were to ask me what I do for The Massachusetts Daily Collegian I would have to say I run. I run, I bike, I do whatever it takes to get the shot. I am the photo editor, and photojournalism has taught me that a lot can happen in 1/500th of a second. And it is for that reason I can say college did not go by in a flash (it could also be because I do not use flash equipment).

Photo puns aside, 1/500th of a second is the usual speed the shutter blades on my camera close and open again to capture the tiniest sliver of a moment possible. In that instant I have seen goals scored, futures realized. The faces of triumph, joy, utter despair, sorrow, excitement, fear and almost every other human emotion imaginable.

I have seen it all at the University of Massachusetts, almost quite literally, because as a newspaper photographer I have to so everyone else can.

‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ is essentially the standard today, and I am responsible for providing pictures of every major and minor event on campus, but that became less of a task and more a drive to get ‘the shot’. The one that says it all, those thousand words and more.

My passion for photojournalism while at UMass grew in a very similar fashion to my love for hockey.

At my student orientation, I watched game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and saw the Boston Bruins win. However when the third period ended, not knowing better, I assumed there was still more of a game left.

A senior at orientation recommended going to the school hockey games. That semester when I saw my first game, I felt the excitement of the sport. I knew from then on I would make that rush a regular sentiment during my time at UMass.

Before college I had not actually done a whole lot of photojournalism. I was the photo editor of my high school newspaper, but besides covering science fairs I mostly did ‘artsy’ stuff, like still life photography.

So after joining the photo department of the campus newspaper, I asked to tag along with the main sports photographer for a game. When I arrived at the Mullins Center, he showed me where to shoot and said he would be leaving after a period.

Alone in one corner of the rink, I started shooting.

Photojournalism was a different kind of rush, an analytical one where I had to coordinate my hands to always keep the camera pointed where the puck and action was. I was almost a different kind of student-athlete in that regard.

A few days later students began protesting the possible elimination of campus jobs. I was not entirely sure protesters would be as exciting as sports, but I soon found any sort of demonstration could prove interesting. Whereas sports provide aggressive action shots, I would eventually come to realize activism and important news coverage produced photos of anger, passion and the utmost seriousness.

My pictures started mattering more and more. Just as I slowly learned the rules and terms of hockey I was learning that my images were the ones telling stories and giving readers first-hand view of happenings.

Writers can describe crowd estimates, but only photographs can show what a sea of people really looks like. Or what despair and anguish looks like on the face of an athlete that just lost the biggest game of their life. Only photographs can say everything about an event without a single word.

At the conclusion of my freshman year, I was hired by the Massachusetts Daily Collegian to be an assistant photo editor. More student protests, a whole lot more sporting events and many campus events later, I found myself shooting better quality stuff than I thought possible.

As friends and colleagues graduated, I took on more responsibilities. I was shooting Atlantic 10 championships, and even decided to add a journalism major.

My first time at the TD Garden was photographing UMass basketball from the Celtics parquet. Agganis Arena, Gutterson Feildhouse, Barclays Center, Gillette Stadium, Beaver Stadium, Providence Civic Center, Schneider Arena and even Fenway Park – I have shot at them all. I have covered all of the 19 UMass sports. I’ve attended every hockey home game three years straight, every men’s basketball home game the past two years and every 2014 home football game.

I have shot well over 400 events for the Collegian, 175 sports-related ones, and of those, 137 official NCAA collegiate games. I’ve shot famous musicians, NFL players, politicians in every level of government, including some of the highest offices.

I leave here with a well-rounded portfolio, and even if I do not end up working in the field post-graduation I will always keep shooting. UMass and the Daily Collegian helped foster a passion for chasing the perfect shot, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Cade Belisle was the photo editor and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @CadeBelisle