The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Picturing Lafayette through Adam Atkinson’s lens

Photo by Ari Ismail for The Lafayette
Adam Atkinson is always ready to document life at Lafayette.

You have probably seen Adam Atkinson around campus, camera ready and on the lookout for an authentic, picture-perfect moment.

“I’m always just looking for a genuine moment,” Atkinson, the college’s director of photography and videography, said. “A lot of it is still just being really truthful. It’s never my intent to make something that’s not there.”

Atkinson has had a camera in his hand for as long as he can remember.

“My mother bought a camera to take pictures of me when I was a baby and when I was two, she showed me how to adjust the meter and I think I was kind of hooked,” Atkinson said. 

The Easton native never thought his passion for photography could be turned into a career. However, he had an epiphany when he was 25 that changed the trajectory of his life. 

“I was never gonna do anything else,” Atkinson said. “I didn’t care if it made me money or not. I was like, ‘It makes me happy. So that’s what I’m gonna do.’”

Atkinson explored many different photographic avenues before landing at Lafayette in 2020, including a wedding photography company called “Happily Ever Atkinson” and “the Photo Documentary Project” where he taught unemployed and economically disadvantaged young adults digital imaging and photojournalism skills. He met his mentor and best friend Ryan Hulvat while interviewing for the program.

“I met him and I thought, ‘You’re perfect for the job. In a lot of ways, you’d actually be better at helping me with the photo and the design, but I have somebody already,’” Hulvat said. “He said, ‘Well, this sounds like a great opportunity. I’ll work for free.’”

“He’s very enthusiastic. He tends not to turn down a challenge,” Hulvat continued. “He’s a very compassionate and loving person, but he’s also very strong and he exudes that with a sense of positivity.”

While he draws from his past experiences when photographing life at Lafayette, being an in-house photographer requires a unique set of skills.

“You’re responsible for being very versatile, and being able to create a lot of different looks and being able to do it really quickly and without as much gear or utility,” Atkinson said.

Often, Atkinson is tasked with capturing candid moments around campus. 

“It is the weirder part of my job, being a perceived as a stranger to a lot of people and then that person takes a photo of you,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson believes that building trust with the students he photographs leads to better results and has ended up creating real bonds. 

“Generally if there’s like a group of people like sitting around talking to each other, I’ll walk up and be like, ‘Hey, guys, can I hang out with you guys and take photos?’” Atkinson said. “I always let people know they can say no, you don’t have to let me do this. You can say no and my feelings aren’t hurt.”

However, creating bonds with students makes photographing events like commencement bittersweet for Atkinson. 

Seeing people who I’ve spent time with graduate, it’s an emotional experience for sure,” Atkinson said. “Them graduating was a great moment because I’ve seen them since they were freshmen and gotten to know them.”

Atkinson’s team members, pre- and post-production assistant Olivia Giralico and videographer Alfred Greenbaum, admire his ability to form relationships with his subjects.

“He doesn’t make you seem like he just has to take your picture and get his job done, he wants to have a conversation with you, really get to know you,” Giralico said. “I think a real benefit in his photography is that people feel comfortable being photographed by him.”

“We have an inside joke that he’s the unofficial mayor of Easton,” Greenbaum said. “Whether it’s the [Easton] Public Market or just walking around campus or in Downtown Easton, he sees two to three people that he knows and has a conversation with every time, and everyone’s always super happy to see him.” 

These impromptu meetings led Atkinson to take a break from photography and become the mentor for the Cycling House on campus. 

“I ride a lot and so when I saw [members of the house] on the Quad with bikes, we just kind of hit it off,” Atkinson, himself a cyclist, said. “I was able to introduce them to our riding group and from that [one student] got a couple of internships and job offer out of that.”

Whether capturing a spontaneous moment on the Quad or taking a portrait of college President Nicole Hurd, Atkinson is happy to be doing what he loves, at a place that he loves.

“You could be like ‘We’re gonna photograph electrical sockets all day,’” Atkinson said. “I’m like, ‘Sweet, I wonder what kind of story I can tell. We’re gonna figure it out, let’s make it look cool.'”

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About the Contributors
Isabella Gaglione, Editor-in-Chief
Ari Ismail
Ari Ismail, Staff Photographer

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