Mosaic / February 13, 2019

A career in moments and photographs

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.


“This is another event where we have thousands of photos in file. This
is not the funniest or liveliest. It’s an example of what I call being
an opportunistic photographer. I label these “keyhole” photos, where a tiny shift to either side and the photo fails.” (Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.”

“Associate Professor of English Rob Smith checking with small discussion groups in an English literature class illustrates what, to me, Knox is all about — students and faculty in class.” (Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.”


“This is one of literally thousands that could illustrate Pumphandle.
This was taken in 2011. Members of the women’s basketball team are
high-fiving in the line. The geometric distortion of the wide-angle
lens blah-blah-blah. But it works!” (Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.”


“Photographing ‘Angels in America’ in 2010 was a lifechanging experience. Among my discoveries, in terms of my photography, was the use of touching and overlapping faces to depict relationships. I took a number that illustrated that idea, and eventually went through all the
photos looking for more examples. The students are Katie Haynes ‘12 and Alicia Vallorani ‘12 — whose image fits the idea
because the shadow of the face overlaps with the other faces. I later
realized that this idea was extensively used in one of my favorite
films, Bergman’s ‘Persona.”’ (Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.


There are thousands of sports action photos in file. Autofocus and digital have made it easier to get more good photos. This one, from a game in 2016, may not be great, but it rises above good because it has
almost everything perfect — sharp, all faces engaged, Knox player Andy Van Buskirk ‘17(#11) at peak of action, peak of emotion. (Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.”

This photo was taken to illustrate a story about classics professor
Sarah Scullin and her research on ancient cultural attitudes toward
pain. Given the topic, the all-too-typical smiling portrait would have
been all wrong. The knife, borrowed from the office kitchen, was a
moment of inspiration on my part — take an abstract idea and make it
real — that she was willing to go along with. It also made some
viewers uncomfortable, which made me like it even more than its risky
uniqueness.” (Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.


“ Taken in May 2018. The yellow umbrella caught my eye two blocks away. I decided that I would take photos of whatever was happening there. The students are seniors Omar Santoyo, Annie Carges, Lauren Kaltenecker, Dianell Vega and junior Travis Goeden. “
(Photo courtesy of Peter Bailley)

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.”

Lillie Chamberlin
Lillie is a senior at Knox, majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women's studies. At The Knox Student, she has worked as the discourse editor, co-editor-in-chief, and is now a co-mosaic editor. She is also a co-nonfiction editor at Catch. Her work has been published in the Galesburg Register-Mail.

Tags:  media Peter Bailley Photography

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