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Q&A: Point Park alum shares his journey to National Geographic

By Madison Krupp, Point Park News Service:

Former Point Park University Professor Matt Adams landed a job in Washington D.C. that he did not predict. Adams always knew he had a passion for storytelling, but he originally hoped to work for Rolling Stone. His new journey is leading him to many places he never expected.

Photo courtesy of Marie McGrory.
Matt Adams, a Point Park University alum, recently taught courses at his alma mater before heading to Washington D.C. to work as a photo editor for National Geographic. Photo courtesy of Marie McGrory.

Q: How long did you teach at Point Park University?

A: I taught at Point Park from January of 2013 until this past spring of 2015, so a little over two years.

Q: What’s something you taught in your classes?

A: Any time you talk to an editor or you’re pitching work, eventually an editor is going to want to see how you sequence things. That’s something I really pushed for students.

Q: You did community collaborations. Do you have any plans for more in the future?

A: I hope so. Here at National Geographic, I’m working with them on building better community engagement with photographers, and we have this website called Your Shot. Anyone can sign up. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, you don’t have to be published anywhere, and it’s a community where you can submit your photos and National Geographic photo editors will actually look at them and comment on them. It’s great because you get that photo education you can’t get anywhere else.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: We just got back from New Orleans where we were working on a project for Hurricane Katrina. What was really cool was we were in the Ninth Ward and we gave students who lived there cameras and we were like, “Go tell your story.” We helped them edit their stories and we published them to our blog, and kind of mentored them through the project. One of the big things I taught in class was if you don’t tell your story, someone else is going to do it. So why would you want someone else to tell your story when you can do it?

Q: Can you tell me about your journey to Washington, D.C?

A: I had to move to D.C within a week. It was crazy how this whole job worked out. It was a crazy process because before that I was a student at Point Park and I remember my first photography class. I think everyone in my class wanted to work at National Geographic and I didn’t at the time; I wanted to work for Rolling Stone. I always wanted to be in a band, but it never worked out for me because I don’t know how to play an instrument. The closest thing to being in a band was to photograph musicians.

Q: What are your daily tasks as a photo editor?

A: I’m looking at images that are coming in from all around the world, which is crazy because you get stuff that might be happening in New York or Chicago, and then you’re getting stuff from South Africa.  Every day it’s something new that’s coming across my computer, which is really cool.

Q: What is your favorite part of your new job?

A: My favorite thing is probably getting a chance to discover photographers I never knew existed.  There’s some big names that come through National Geographic, but the cool thing about working on the Your Shot website or the blog here is that there are some photographers I didn’t even know exist out there, and their work’s coming in and we’re like, “Wow, this is really good.” You want to know more about this person and how you can get them published in the magazine, or how to get their stuff online. It’s really cool to build that connection with somebody you didn’t even know existed two days ago.

Q: Is there any advice you would give to current students?

A: If I can end up at National Geographic, going from Point Park on the journey I did to here, you can do it too. That sounds cheesy, but it’s possible. What I want students to get from this is that I went to Point Park too. Just continue to work on it, and just have some patience. This is about a 10-year journey from ending my undergrad and going to grad school, teaching and then ending up here.

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