Alumni and Friends

OHIO alumna Maddie Meyer returns to Athens to share insight on navigating the world post-grad

Less than 10 years after graduating from Ohio University with her Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication, alumna Maddie Meyer (’14) has learned a thing or two about navigating the world and securing her dream job as chief photographer for Getty Images.

In the fall, Meyer returned to Athens to share this knowledge with current students while her work was on display in an exhibit in Schoonover Center. During her time on campus, she held a student portfolio review and held a lecture on her experiences as a sports photographer. Amid her busy schedule, she found time to sit down with fellow School of Visual Communication alumna Vanessa Abbitt (’22) to talk more about her life as a sports journalist and what she’s learned since graduating.

Vanessa Abbitt
Vanessa Abbitt

The following is a Q and A between Abbitt and Meyer:

VA: Do you have a preference for working at wires or newspapers?
MM: I think there's a lot of things to love about newspapers, but I really love big events with big teams of photographers and traveling internationally. Those were my favorite types of events, and as it stands, right now, wires are the ones who are covering events that way. One of my internships was at Getty while I was here at OU, and I really loved it. It just kind of felt right to me. I loved my colleagues. I loved the pace of it. And I love the challenge of it. So, if I could spend the rest of my career at Getty, that's what I hope to do.

VA: Do you feel like you’ve struck a work-life balance or not yet?
MM: I'm working on it. I think that's one of the most challenging aspects of the job, you know. Luckily, I knew coming in that was going to be the deal. Also, growing up my dad worked in the restaurant industry, so he worked a lot of nights and weekends and holidays. So, my family was always very used to that adjustment. With what I learned at school, and I knew what the deal was, and how I grew up, it hasn't been too tough. But right now, I'm doing a lot of traveling. I spend at least five months of the year on the road. So that has been tough balancing with my partner and my family. But something that is cool is I've always loved having friends in the industry. You know, I love having other photo roommates here at OU. And I found the friends that I've made in Boston are people who are also photographers or work at some of the teams, like the Red Sox. So, they're really understanding, which is good. But it's an ongoing thing, I don't think it's ever solved. I don't think the balance has ever struck and you don't worry about it again.

VA: Would you say that you have your dream job?
MM: I would. I would say I have my dream job, and I realize how rare that is. And I'm really thankful for it. And it sounds cheesy, but I tell my boss this all the time: I'm like, ‘Even when I'm on a tough assignment, I am really thankful that I get to do what I love to do.’ And the thing that I also really like is that Getty is a pretty transactional place in a way that I enjoy. I feel like everything I'm asked to do has a good reason to it. So even if it's not something I necessarily love shooting, I understand it. Also, not every day can be your favorite, you know. You’ve got to do those kind of middle-of-the-season hockey games without a lot of emotion, and then in turn, I get some really great assignments, too. So, there's a balance within it. And yeah, I love it.

VA: Is there anything that after all these years since graduation, that still comes to mind that one of your professors or teachers said or did that just pops into your head all the time?
MM: Oh, so many things. I think about my time at OU honestly on every assignment. The smallest thing that I brought up to some students during my visit here is even just something I learned in our first Intro to VisCom class about your eye being drawn to the brightest spot in a frame. I loved learning the science of how our eyes work, and it's something that I use when I'm covering a sport to try and make an impactful image. But then outside of that, honestly the work ethic that I learned here at OU and the thoroughness that's demanded of students here is something that I'm so thankful was ingrained in me so that when I do travel, I'm able to continue that and apply that. Another thing I think about all the time is Marcy, who was my professor at the time, taught us a lot about three-picture combos, meaning having variety within even just a really tight edit. And that's something I always try and come away from with when I'm covering any assignment as well.

VA: Do you have any advice? If someone knows that they want to do sports photography, what would you tell them?
MM: I think it's such an awesome gift to be here at OU, for many reasons, but one: you have the gear and the support, and the sports right around you to be shooting all the time. I think ultimately, the only way to get really good at shooting sports is to do a lot of it. It takes a long time, at least it did for me, to understand the rhythm of the different sports, understand the venues. You know, it's a type of photography where you have to anticipate and react very quickly. So my advice to people is really to just be shooting as much as you can. And honestly, some of my favorite photo memories are shooting high school football here in Athens. It does not need to be the NFL. It does not need to be the World Series. Shooting high school, shooting a little sibling’s soccer practice—whatever it might be, you're still flexing those muscles to clean up your background, straighten your horizon, and capture that peak action. So that'd be number one, to get that all down. And then from there, play. Look at a lot of different work. Come up with your own ideas. But I think to at least get started, there's some skills you need to have and practice is the way to get there.

January 23, 2023
Vanessa Abbitt '22