The Photo Panther

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

On Nov. 4, 2013, a new big cat, in the leagues with the likes of TC and TK, prowled onto UNI’s campus to stay. That was the day Roland Ferrie of Crescoe, IA, the “Photo Panther,” started his job as the university photographer. Everything from  action-packed athletics photos to candid student pictures have been taken by Ferrie ever since.

“I basically decide what gets photographed, and I just love being on a campus,” Ferrie said. “There’s no place in the world that has the energy of a college campus. It keeps me feeling moderately young.”

Ferrie, at only 35, is a fully self-taught photographer, and he used his college days to practice. A Wartburg 2008 graduate with a B.A. in public relations and communications, Ferrie worked at his campus paper, yearbook and other areas at his university. After college, he worked in Waverly at Lattin Photography before starting at UNI. The only thing he says he misses about his old job is the use of medium format or film camera work.

“The dark room had a certain romance to it that there’s nothing comparable in digital,” Ferrie said. “You never were going to get the same photo twice, there was a uniqueness about the dark room that you don’t have with digital photography.”

The reason Ferrie was first motivated to start photography was nostalgia.

“I like the idea of being able to preserve memories,” Ferrie said.

Ferrie’s office in Bartlett is dim, since he rarely turns on the florescent lights, letting in only select window lighting. All the editing Ferrie needs to do on his two 4K computer monitors means extra lights tampers with his ability to properly see the colors on the screen. Most of the university’s photography is taken and edited in 4k and is then released in standard 1080 resolution. The numbers 4K and 1080p refer to the number of pixels that make a digital image.

The job of university photographer encapsulates more than simply taking photos.

“I am in charge of basically creating and helping select visuals that will portray the university in a manner that’s consistent with our mission statements and in order to best recruit new students,” Ferrie said. “Whether that means still photographs or video.”

On Friday, Sept. 22, Ferrie rolled out of his office, camera equipment in tow, to do a video shoot at 3 p.m. and another one later that night. He was accompanied by Paul Kaufmann, the electronic communication specialist who shares Ferrie’s office and works in UNI’s photography division.

Ferrie quickly set up his camera, tripod and homemade teleprompter in the stairway of Rod Library between the third and fourth floors.

“I don’t have to be the most creative person in the world. And I’ve told several people, I’m not the most creative photographer in the world, but what I am is ruthlessly efficient,” Ferrie said. “I get the photos done, I get them done well and I get them done quickly.”

Making easy small talk with the people involved in the video shoot of the day, Ferrie soon wrapped up the filming with minimal difficulties. At one point during the filming, Ferrie had to tell the talent to move her microphone.

“Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest noise,” Ferrie said as he reviewed his footage.

While tearing down the shoot, the sudden sound of shattered glass echoed down the stairwell. However, Ferrie merely shrugged off the breaking of another teleprompter screen, which would be fixed by the next week.

Ferrie has made two teleprompters that the university uses.

“It costs us a total of $12,” Ferrie said.

The university could’ve bought one, but he said he didn’t see the point since he could make one himself for a much cheaper price.

“Rather than wasting the money on it, put the money where we can make the most impact,” Ferrie said.

University Relations, as recent as the start of this 2017 school year, updated the university photographer job description to include a large video component, according to Ferrie. They also updated the photo request process to make it clear that he does not mainly photograph meetings and speakers.

“I’m the marketing photographer,” Ferrie said. “The thought process is that instead of being at a meeting or a conference that is going to yield us an extremely low marketability […] we can hopefully spend more time in classrooms and things that really showcase our academic excellence.”

Classrooms are some of Ferrie’s favorite places to photograph.

“I don’t think we spend enough time bragging about the university,” Ferrie said. “Because, we do a lot of really cool things here, and people need to know about it.”

Ferrie explained how he came up with his username for his social media accounts.

“Well, my license plate is ‘SHUTTER,’ but that was my nickname in college,” Ferrie said. “I thought about using that, but it didn’t quite scream UNI enough, so I thought a light bit of alliteration with Photo Panther would be alright. And it’s worked and it’s stuck, and now I’ve got old professors calling me ‘Photo Panther’ now. I’ve got state representatives calling me ‘Photo Panther.’”