Photographer Captures the Still, Changing Life of the University
Kevin Yang Chronicles Historic Developments, On-Campus Events for the Office of Communications
June 1, 2015
If you received a student award or scholarship, attended an activity on campus or came on board as a new faculty member at UT Dallas in the last two years, there’s a good chance you’ve had your photo taken by Kevin Yang.
Yang, a part-time student photographer in the Office of Communications, has taken hundreds of headshots and photos of campus events for the University’s News Center stories. Yang also has added the visual element for marketing brochures, the UT Dallas Facebook site, UT Dallas Magazine and the Annual Report.
He has covered everything from comedy shows to commencement ceremonies, especially helping out with evening and weekend assignments.
This year, the management information systems junior in the Naveen Jindal School of Management is moving on to a marketing and analytics internship with Southwest Airlines, but Yang leaves behind a portfolio that chronicles some historic changes at the University. He left his post as a student photographer after his last assignment (the spring commencement ceremonies) and expects to complete his degree in December.
When Yang was hired in 2012 to be part of the communications team, he lived in what was then Residence Hall West (now renamed Residence Hall Northwest). The Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building (ATEC) was still under construction, the north mall was just a concrete walkway, the bioengineering building existed only on paper, and the only places to stow your car on campus were parking lots, not covered garages.
“For two years, Kevin has helped us reflect the amazing place that UT Dallas is becoming. Through his photographs, he has showed us the true heartbeat of student life on campus. He is also a great human being who brings a whirlwind of ideas to every table. He is the kind of young person who makes you have faith in the future.”
“There have definitely been more groundbreakings and construction on campus,” Yang said. “I remember when the new Residence Hall West just seemed to pop up from nowhere. It’s amazing how rapidly things have changed. UT Dallas feels like a uniquely modern campus now.”
As part of the communications team, Yang has been able to scout out many of the changes before the rest of the campus community. And for a photographer, more buildings on campus means having new and interesting places to take photos.
For instance, Yang loves arranging photo shoots in the ultra-modern ATEC building. “It’s very industrial. It gives people an edgy feel,” he said.
Another favorite spot is in the Student Services Building's lobby, with “those cool mobiles, lots of windows and splashes of orange and green.”
Yang has even used the Love Jack sculpture as background for a photo.
“It’s so whimsical, like something you’d find on a playground,” he said. “I’m always finding new places to shoot on campus.”
Yang uses a Canon T3i camera and shoots manually 99 percent of the time. He credits fellow student worker Sunayna Rajput, a marketing intern, for helping him tweak his digital editing skills.
“Editing is half the battle. You can get lost in one photo for hours getting the color just right,” Yang said.
His diligence has paid off. Last year, his supervisor nominated him for the Student Employee of the Year award, and he was named a finalist.
Kamrhan Farwell, executive editor of periodicals, said that as a student worker, Yang has provided an insider’s perspective on the change at UT Dallas.
“For two years, Kevin has helped us reflect the amazing place that UT Dallas is becoming. Through his photographs, he has showed us the true heartbeat of student life on campus,” Farwell said. “He is also a great human being who brings a whirlwind of ideas to every table. He is the kind of young person who makes you have faith in the future.”
“I was really surprised,” Yang said of the nomination. “I had wanted to prove my worth. I needed to own my work and be part of the team to tell the story of the University. So when I read the nomination letter, my heart skipped a beat. I thought, ‘She really likes my work.’”
His interest in photography stemmed from a family trip to Europe the summer after third grade. While others were taking photos of the Louvre, Yang was intrigued by capturing photos of pigeons on the ground around it.
“I don’t think they were really even good artsy,” he said of his early photos.
Still, he recalls begging his mom for a camera of his own. He began taking photos of volunteer events sponsored by his church. Eventually, he became the school newspaper editor and photographer at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS).
“When I got feedback that people appreciated my work, I thought it was maybe something I could do elsewhere,” he said.
Along with documenting construction on campus, Yang has enjoyed capturing favorite events at UT Dallas, including graduation, especially when students meet up with their families.
“You can feel everyone swell up. Some even cry,” he said. “It’s touching to be around people who feel they’ve accomplished something great.”
Working with a professional news and publications team also has helped Yang’s communication skills. He’s had to interact more with faculty and administrators than most students ever do.
“I feel a lot more comfortable now, especially with professors. They’re very open to my direction,” he said.
“I remember being very nervous when I got called in for the job interview, though, because this was my first real job. But everyone on the communications team was very warm and friendly. I don’t think I could have had a better working experience. They even feed me. I could probably live in the office.”