If you’ve read the UAB Reporter, UAB Magazine or any other UAB-produced periodical, magazine or website, you’ve seen Steve Wood’s artistry on display.
The senior photographer is responsible for almost every photograph used by Creative & Marketing, Media Relations and Internal Communications — literally thousands of images each year. And the quality of those photos is unmatched.
“His photographs are amazing,” says Shannon Thomason, media specialist in Media Relations. “His work is needed for nearly every announcement, news story, magazine article and website post we create — and they are the foundation for the face of UAB which we present to the public.”
Wood’s top-notch work, his professionalism and positive attitude are lauded by his co-workers and are traits they say that make him a worthy selection as June’s Employee of the Month.
The number of assignments Wood has in a week is impressive. He routinely has upward of 10 photo shoots a week and oftentimes more. He had 68 photo shoots scheduled in April, including one week with 25 appointments.
“Steve never complains about how busy he is or that he’s got too much on his plate — and he always does,” says Jessica Huffstutler, art manager in Creative & Marketing. “Some days he even misses lunch with back-to-back scheduled photos. But when you pass him the hall, he has a big smile on his face and meets you with a cheery disposition.”
Co-workers are amazed at how the quality of Wood’s work never suffers despite his often-hectic schedule.
“He could have easily fallen into churning out the run-of-the-mill static photos every standard university produces, but that’s not Steve,” says Marie Sutton, media specialist. “Steve is an artisan. He makes UAB look good, literally. His photos are poetic. He makes sure that if it has UAB’s name on it, it is better than the best.”
These photos don’t come easily either.
Wood pushes, pulls, tugs and lugs more than 70 pounds of equipment with him to his photo shoots. Lights, extension cords, batteries, tripod, numerous lenses — they make almost every trip. Wood will walk from the Administration Building to his appointment pushing his cart of cases and bags, or he loads them in and out of his car when he drives to an assignment.
And before he photographs a subject, Wood takes great care and interest in knowing the type of work his subject does and in scoping out the best possible places and angles to take the photos. Every case and bag he brings to a shoot is usually opened at some point as he tries to find the right lighting prop, lens or other piece of equipment he needs.
“I have worked with Steve for more than 18 years, but he still amazes me every day with something he has created,” says Ron Gamble, director of Creative Services. “We have worked together on countless photo shoots on and off campus and also around the state, and he can turn even the most ordinary assignment into something magical. He has really developed over the years into one of the best photographers I have ever worked with in my 30-year career.”
“Steve doesn’t just document the moment or the event,” adds Kelly Allison, interim chair in the Department of Theatre, “he creates images with emotional depth.”
Wood takes any compliments from co-workers in his usual understated manner.
“I’m fortunate that I get to work with a very fun and creative group,” he says. “They’re easy to work with and are very helpful in terms of ideas. I think we work pretty well together. They make my job much easier.”
“What I get to do is fun,” he adds. “I get to meet a lot of cool people on campus and see some pretty amazing things. There are much worse ways to make a living.”
It’s that attitude and Wood’s uplifting demeanor that co-workers especially marvel at and appreciate.
“Whatever we need of him he supplies without issue,” Thomason says. “I don’t know what we’d do without him, and on top of all of that, he is an absolute joy to work with.”
“Steve has a smile and great attitude all day, every day,” Sutton adds. “Never, in all of my years of working, have I ever met a person who never seems to have a bad day. And, in turn, his energy, positivity and commitment to doing a good job makes your day better.”
Wood’s busy days don’t end after all of his work assignments are completed. He and his wife Traci have three children — 17-year-old Patrick, 13-year-old Sara and 4-year-old Sam. Wood is always in attendance for high-school band performances and pre-school programs.
“I admire him so much,” Gamble says. “He’s such a good family person. He loves his family so much.”
Q&A with Steve Wood
Q. What do you look for when photographing a subject, especially if it’s a photo with no movement?
A. Really I just try to see things in a different way than you would if you were just looking at something straight on. I try to get different perspectives and different angles.
Q. What’s your camera of choice and the lenses you use most?
A. I’m a Nikon shooter and always have been. I’m using a Nikon D3S right now. As for lenses, I use a 14-millimeter lens all the way to a 300-millimeter. It just depends on the subject and what I want to try and capture.
Q. What are some of the more interesting photo shoots you’ve had?
A. Surgeries are always amazing to watch and to shoot. I did a brain surgery one time, and that was really something to see. I enjoy shooting athletic events, although it is difficult to enjoy a game while watching it through a two-inch viewfinder. You kind of miss some stuff going on around you. But then again you get to see little nuances of the game that you would miss from the stands.
Q. Who are some of the more famous people you’ve photographed?
A. President George W. Bush. Vice President Dick Cheney. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Several sports guys — Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Roddy White, Gene Bartow.
Q. Who was the most fun to photograph?
A. Coach Bartow was always fun. All you had to do was point the camera in his direction and you pretty much had an image or two you could use. I got several photos of coat throwing and stomping. He was very easy to shoot, especially on game day. Aaron Johnson is a guy like that too. You just have to point and follow him for a minute and you’ll get some good photos.