Notre Dame hosts UPAA Symposium


If you see some new faces out and about on campus, it’s due in part to the work of Senior University Photographer Matt Cashore. Cashore worked with the University Photographers’ Association of America (UPAA) to host its annual symposium on campus this week. According to its website, UPAA is an international organization of college and university photographers dedicated to the application and practice of photography as it relates to higher education. It includes members from two-year and four-year public and private universities and colleges from nearly every state, plus Canada, Israel, Australia, Grenada and Europe.

The symposium includes a print show in Scholars Lounge in the Hesburgh Library through June 25. It is free and open to the public.

Cashore spoke with NDWorks Weekly about his background in photography and the UPAA symposium. 

How long have you worked at ND as a photographer?

My cousin was two years ahead of me at Notre Dame and was the yearbook editor, so you could say I was on Notre Dame yearbook staff from the very day I arrived freshman year. I did my first job for Notre Dame Magazine while I was a student. After graduating I worked as a freelance contributor for several years and was made an employee in 2007.

Matt Cashore Sq

Why did you choose photography?

My high school, Pius X in Lincoln, Nebraska, had a requirement to take at least one year of fine arts. I was also on the school newspaper, so I thought photography was a way of meeting the requirement and adding to my contributions to the newspaper. I knew practically from the first moment I picked up a camera I wanted to do it for a career.

How long have you been a member of UPAA?

I joined UPAA in 2009. Photography is a very specialized job, and university photography even more so. Finding a group of people who did exactly the same job as me was wonderful. UPAA challenges me creatively and is a great source for technical knowledge as well as the mental energy needed to solve problems. I credit UPAA for most of my professional growth in my time as a Notre Dame employee. As technology has evolved so has UPAA. It was almost entirely still photographers when I joined, and now at least half our members are at least partly video professionals as well.

How many awards have you won from them? 

UPAA has both monthly and annual awards. I regularly participate in UPAA contests to both challenge myself as well as see work from others who are raising the creative and technical bar in our little niche industry. The quality of work keeps getting better so it keeps me motivated. I try to have at least one winning image in every monthly contest. That’s been more and more difficult … and that’s good!

Was there a particular award winner you were most proud of?

I’m always happy to have a contest winner. There are many reasons why some stand out. Sometimes my favorite image from a session or story might not be the one that gets used for the final website or publication. If that image gets an award from my industry peers, it’s rewarding to know my instincts were correct!

What did you have to do to become the host of the symposium?

UPAA has existed since 1961. I’m not sure when they began the symposium but it’s been at least 40 years. Every year it’s held at a different member institution. It might be at a large state university, a community college or anything in between. You have to apply to host, and they plan host sites about three years in advance, so we made our request in 2019, I believe. The preparation process takes an entire year.

Did you work with a committee to pull it together?

Very much so. The UPAA board of directors is highly involved. Some of the speakers and presenters are made possible by our corporate partners like Canon and Sony, and some of the presenters are from our own membership. There are a lot of people to talk to and we have to find space for everyone to do their thing. Think of it like planning a wedding that lasts a whole week. OPAC’s own Rachel Hughes-Gehring, project and accounting program coordinator in Marketing Communications, has done the majority of the campus logistics planning, but I’ve also been lucky to have help from all over campus — people helping with access to buildings, volunteering to be photographic subjects and the like. For example: I needed 18 vintage cameras to be centerpieces at our awards banquet. I had half a dozen people with vintage camera collections volunteering to loan me whatever I needed. 

What additional assistance did you receive to set up the symposium? What were some of the key logistics you had to work on?

Notre Dame has an amazing staff of people who are professional event planners. I’ve confirmed in the past year that event planning is not my life’s vocation so I’m grateful for the experts’ expertise! I’m also grateful for those who don’t do event planning for their primary jobs but have done big and small favors for me over the past year. I would try to name everyone but there have been so many and I’d almost certainly miss someone and feel terrible. I’ll mention the Athletics Department, the College of Science, the Hesburgh Library, not to mention absolutely everyone in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications: Beth Grisoli, executive director of Multimedia Services and Strategic Resources; our design experts who made our logos and agendas look pretty … and I have to give a conspicuous thank-you to Marketing Communications for making it possible for Rachel to spend so much time on this!

How many attendees will be at the symposium?

This is the most-attended UPAA Symposium ever. Over 160 UPAA members are here plus another 20 or so representatives from our corporate partners. In the summer on campus you can’t miss the sports camps. You’ve got soccer camp, lacrosse camp, volleyball camp, etc. You see the participants walking to the dining hall with their helmets and sticks and other gear. This will be “camera camp.” I think the campus will notice the increased visibility of cameras this week.

In what other ways is this the biggest symposium?

As more people attend a UPAA Symposium, word spreads about what a great organization it is. The growth in membership is not surprising. I am certain Notre Dame’s athletics visibility is also a draw for more than a few. I made sure we would have a brief opportunity to go into Notre Dame Stadium. Many are eager to say they were in “The House That Rockne Built.” Last year the UPAA Symposium was at the University of Georgia and we visited Sanford Stadium. You may recall the Georgia football team won a national championship that year. What’s that saying about correlation and causation? I can’t say UPAA causes football national championships, but I can’t say we don’t!

Why is the symposium important to attend?

For me, it’s networking. As I said previously, this is a very specialized job. There’s more to it than pushing a shutter button. At the symposium I can sit down and chat with people whose work I know and admire and find out how they approach a situation that I might be having trouble with or trying to think differently about. Many of my workflow practices and ideas have been borrowed from or confirmed by conversations with my UPAA colleagues.

What are you looking most forward to? 

Every session inspires and energizes, but the most important thing is just seeing the people I’ve come to know in my 14 years in the organization. We had to be online-only in 2020 and 2021, so it still feels like a treat to be able to see everyone in person.

Where are people coming from?

UPAA members are coming from all over the country and even from outside the U.S. We have members attending from Canada and Israel. 

Can you talk a little about the exhibit at Hesburgh?

It’s a visual tour of UPAA in 15 images. We have all corners of the USA and international members represented. All sizes and scopes of universities and colleges from an 1,800-student private college to a 50,000-student state school. Our corporate partner, Saal Digital, provided the unique metal prints. It was fun to install the prints.

Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you would like to add? 

University photo and video professionals are our schools’ storytellers and visual historians. Hopefully decades from now people will have a rich archive of what their campuses and students looked like thanks to the work we do to make images, and make them useful beyond the present day.