News Items from UNC Greensboro

woman seeming to fly

“What is this? You know, there’s a thing at Homecoming. They leap off. And there’s a big landing pad here. So she leapt off, and there’s this jet trail in the sky. It’s not photoshopped. This was just one of the fun pictures that happens when you go to a UNC Greensboro event.”

“I never tried to take a picture from anybody,” said University photographer Martin W. Kane. “I try to make it with them. I’m looking for that connection, something other than just a snapshot or a lifestyle picture. I want to look at them in the context of their environment.”

Martin W. Kane served as the University’s photographer for seven years.

Kane photographed one final Commencement this month. His daughter, a master’s student in geography, was turning her tassel. And he now turns the page on his time at UNCG, retiring from University Communications after a 50-year career as a visual artist.

We asked Kane about some of his most memorable shoots and photos from his grand UNCG portfolio.

“It’s very often the pictures that I think tell the story best are not necessarily the easiest ones to look at. They’re more complicated, show another aspect of the person,” he explained.

“I’ve loved UNC Greensboro because I’m learning something new all the time – experiencing being around people, getting insight into them, trying to capture their souls a little bit, look below the surface, find more about what’s going on, what’s motivating them. We have a beautiful campus yet there’s just something about this community here…there’s so many people doing projects where they’re lifting up other people, not just themselves.

So, It’s a long story about working at a place I really love, and I really agree with its mission. And I have absolutely been able to connect with that. That emotional content that’s there.”

This encapsulates just about everything about UNCG for me. This was the first Commencement that took place a couple of weeks after I started with the University. This gave me a real insight into what UNCG was about. It wasn’t just about 18 year olds showing up here and following a specific course. Here’s a mom and her little boy  taking a picture of her walking through the clock tower and she’s beaming. Coming here from another college where this didn’t take place, it made me realize this is a different place with a different spirit, and it was a different opportunity. And this is not a set-up shot,  I happened to be going by and witnessed the sight.

She was in the studio with the violin. I said, ‘Why don’t you play something?’ So, she had just finished playing a piece of music I’d never heard before. It was beautiful, but really troubling and challenging. She had this expression when she completed the piece, like ‘Wow, this was really great.’ It was really quite an experience.

So, this was the first holiday card picture, which was made up of, I think, nine individual pieces. This particular holiday picture was absolutely insane because I was standing up on a platform yelling at people. I was trying to get the Alumni House and the clock tower in the same shot for a large group of people. I shot it as a panorama, and I had to get everybody to stay very still. We had to do this I don’t know how many times, but we got one to work and if you look, this is a shot where everybody has their eyes open and engaged. This is the only shot in this particular sequence where the dog was paying attention to the chancellor. That was a great, fun shot.

Rhiannon Giddens is just wonderful in her concerts here at UNCG Auditorium. It’s very easy to photograph her because there’s always a level of intensity. Whether it was a “Porgy and Bess” performance or the workshops and masterclasses that are photographed, she’s got this approachable dimeanor yet great depth of knowledge about whatever she’s talking about. The amazing talent comes through in all the photographs. She was one of my favorite people to photograph here.

 And then there’s the apple. This is my favorite picture of the apple just because it’s bigger. There is a fascinating story behind every apple. 

This is my favorite picture here, I think because this encapsulates a lot of what goes on here. It’s the veteran nursing student from a tough background. We asked her to bring the things which were most important to her. So she brought her army hat and her son, and she’s holding a stethoscope on her heart.

Baraka Ongeri, one of our actors between lines, thinking about what he was going to do in the next scene.

Then, there’s the science people here who are so approachable, who have a tremendous sense of humor, who their biggest motivation is teaching. Faculty are so supportive of students, seeing their success in many ways through their accomplishments.  This is a tremendous sense of camaraderie and also, you know, not taking themselves all that seriously. Very serious people not taking themselves seriously.

MC2, I have loved photographing them over the years.

“Hairspray.” One of my favorite things. That was just a great time, a really fabulous production.

Our donors and our leaders are just really terrific people.

Phillip Marsh, an organizer for Black Lives Matter artwork efforts on South Elm Street. He’s looking to the future but also feeling the past. He’s got lots of projects going, he’s got all kinds of things going on, but he’s the product of his time and his life and everything that’s happened. And to try to capture that in a single image is a challenge. But we’re walking by this this one thing that he put up, and I said, “That’s that’s pretty much it.”

John Locke did a wonderful reconstruction of John Philip Sousa. His concert, with the whole band, and the giant American flag was a way of keeping something alive that was disappearing from the world. He was very much into it. He became John Philip Sousa. It was quite remarkable.

One of our many undergrad researchers. I met her the very first week she was here, and then I was able to see her throughout her entire UNCG career. This is her when she was on a research trip with Dr. Nadja Cech. And she graduated and went on to great things. I’ve been here so long, I’ve been able to see students over time, to follow them through, from meeting them during their move-in and then seeing them walk at graduation, just a real privilege. So, she was really terrific in this. This is my favorite science picture of someone in their element.

The darkness on campus during the COVID lockdown, just how strange it felt, and trying to express that and figure it out.

The Three-College Observatory

The Moss Street Partnership School

Catching the Black Lives Matter rock was really important to me. That was an important moment, because coming back after the first COVID lockdown was a very emotional time for everybody.

I went down in August and made photographs of the UNCG Wetlands at its peak. So that when the winter came along, we would have pictures of butterflies and all the other beautiful flowers and things going on for the research magazine. And then our faculty working with middle school kids. You know, that was just really great stuff.

This is a person who works so hard to do everything she does, Kim Sousa-Peoples. The level of intensity of everything we’ve done together, oh my god: tons of students coming in needing directions, assistance, all the planning that goes into it beforehand for months, the complexity, the execution of things, adapting to that day. She’s the general in charge of this incredibly complex logistical problem. I valued working with her on that and really getting a sense that she does so much that is completely behind-the-scenes to everybody. Nav1Gate and SOAR.  It’s really quite a job, and it’s critical to the success of the institution. I don’t know if she would think much about having her picture here, but you know, I’m trying to catch the sense of what’s in her basket. Because she’s paying attention to everything.

The doctoral hooding stuff is always my favorite because it’s just so much emotion and the families are involved, the faculty members are involved. And it’s such an emotionally fulfilling time.

The North Carolina Theater for Young People bus. Wonderful energy and wonderful people. They’re having fun.

I love dance, motion, and stillness. I have a lot of dance photographs. And I really enjoyed the dance program here over the years. And working with the choreographers to get a sense of what they’re looking for in the photograph and to understand what they’re going for. I’m always challenged by trying to capture that sense of stillness and motion and individual photographs because it’s dance and it’s probably the most difficult thing to photograph because it’s so complex. It happens so fast and there’s an infinite number of compositions in it as you go through. So, as a photographer, a still photographer, it’s probably the most challenging thing.

What I love about UNCG – the faculty here are teachers. But none of them I’ve photographed are interested primarily in their own success.They’re seeing these students succeed. These teachers have a high success rate, because they’re not trying to eliminate people. They’re not trying to keep you out of the club. They’re trying to make the club bigger.

Story and interview by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

Share This