As a Knox student in 1970, former media manager Peter Bailley didn’t feel much of a direction. He ended up quitting after three years, staying in Galesburg and working odd jobs. After stints as a janitor, a bike mechanic — “If bike mechanics made more money, I’d probably still be doing that” — and a country western Radio DJ, Bailley found himself working for the Journal Star in Peoria. There, he found photography and his knack for the PR business. Bailley found his way back to Knox College in 1985, and was hired in Communications because he was interested in both writing and photography.
Thirty-three years later, Bailley estimates that he’s worn out three cameras, taking more than 100,000 photos (and deleting that many or more) since 2003, which is when the digital era began. Bailey broke that large number of photographs down into just seven categories.
Flunk Day: “We have taken thousands of Flunk Day photos. Evan Temchin ’10, a brilliant photographer with whom I worked for several years, did some analytics and said that Knox almost owns the “Flunk Day” brand on the Internet. But more than owning Flunk Day, I’m happy that we’re still having it. A main reason for this, I believe, is because we’ve never had a serious Flunk Day disaster. Credit goes to Knox students and administration for keeping Flunk Day ‘sustainable’ — safe and fun.”
Classes and Labs: “This is the business of Knox — students and faculty in class. Some academic subjects are easier to cover, because they’re visually coded — you can ID the subject from the photo. But in many areas, speaking/listening/reading/writing all look the same. In one of my recent favorites, English professor Rob Smith is ‘working the room,’ interacting with small groups around the room. It’s a great example of Knox at its best.”
Pumphandle: “I Fair, Commencement, Homecoming, etc — I’m a more private type of person who doesn’t hobnob very well, but I’ve come to enjoy covering these big social events. Except for picnics and meals. For reasons that I’ve often explained, and can repeat if asked, I will neither take nor publish photos of people eating. Not gonna do it.”
Theatre: “Among all the academic areas on campus, I have to call out theatre. I have learned so much about photography, and about Knox’s core value of respect for each other, from covering theatre and observing up close and personal how students and faculty interact.
Athletics: “At one time I hoped to cover more sports practices. That’s where athletes spend most of their time in their sports — in practice. I’m not sure I reached this goal, and I leave it to others to figure out the best way to showcase sports at a place where lots of students do sports, but the focus is on academics. If you’re aiming for lots of super-close action photos — NFL, Sports Illustrated, etc. — you have to spend lots of time covering the specific sport and lots of money on equipment. I’ve done enough to get a few memorable images.”
Portraits: “The opposite of sports photos, which are all about what the photographer brings to the event, portraits are all about what the subject brings to the event. I’ve aimed for more ‘motivated,’ or ‘environmental’ portraits, and I’ve had a few moments of inspiration.
Campus photos: “Omitting portraits, which by definition are posed … I as a photographer and we, as a communications office, have been using fewer staged photos compared to years past. Part of this was my preference to show Knox as it is, rather than how I, as a PR person, wished it to be. But what really makes the difference is the willingness of Knox students, faculty and staff to be photographed. Whether viewers appreciate it or not, the view of Knox on the website and other media is authentic.”