Catching the Light Just So

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Author: Notre Dame Magazine staff

The Photography of Matt Cashore

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Matt Cashore, ND class of 1994 has been photographing the Notre Dame campus for 15 years. He’s shot the Dome, the ducks, the joggers by the lakes. Football games and tailgaters. Classrooms and labs and assorted “campus scenes.” The arrival of freshmen, the pageantry of commencement, the casual solemnity of residence hall Masses. He’s taken portraits for annual reports, aerial shots for historic purposes and documentary stills of presidential visits.

His first Notre Dame assignment came in 1990. He photographed his own freshman orientation for the Dome, the student yearbook. As a student, he shot for all the campus media, took a couple of photography classes, “did tons of photography and learned how to hide from the building monitors in LaFortune,” the building that housed the student media offices at that time. “I would keep on working there in the darkroom till 4 or 5 in the morning,” he recalls. “I spent most of my senior year on the third floor of LaFortune.” He was photo editor of the Dome that year—and got his first assignment from Notre Dame Magazine (a couple of faculty portraits).

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Since then he has contributed countless photographs to this magazine. His work has filled these pages, appeared on the home page of the University’s website, taken our readers into the secret corners of “the unseen Notre Dame,” and exposed them to the crazy biker rally held annually in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A contract photographer for Notre Dame’s Athletic Department, Cashore has seen his photos in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and ESPN: The Magazine. His freelance work easily consumes a 40-hour work week, but he also has a full-time job. He is a videographer with WNDU-TV, working the 3:30 a.m. to noon shift. He also finds time to fly his own airplane and this spring went skydiving for the first time.

But it is his still photography that drives and excites him professionally. “I get to get into places I have no business being,” he says. “Any assignment where I get to climb stuff is always fun. And it broadens my horizons. I get to experience other people’s lives for a half-hour at a time, and that’s fun—especially when it’s unexpected and unique.”

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It is not unusual for creative people to improve with age and experience, and Cashore’s photographs demonstrate what happens when talent, hard work and maturity come together. But one of the remarkable aspects of his work is the elevation in quality even though the subject matter has remained the same. Cashore has shot on campus for 15 years, yet his images are persistently fresh, the view through his lens perpetually innovative, his eye ready to see new meaning in familiar terrain, to catch the predictable moment from the unexpected angle.

“The seasons help,” he says, trying to explain this knack for capturing domes and spires and statues and quads as if for the first time. “But mainly it’s that the light is always different —every day and every minute of the day. And it’s being ready to be surprised that this thing you have passed 100 times and seeing how at this time, this season, this day, how it looks unlike it has the other 99 times you’ve passed it by. There’s always something a little different about the light at each particular moment in a day.”

After 15 years we thought it time to gather some representative photos into a gallery. So here’s a partial collection of moments when the light and the eye and the lens coincided to capture and freeze in time a vivid piece of the Notre Dame experience.

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