As instructors have to change the way they teach due to COVID-19, some instructors are having to transition differently than others. Such is the case with Matt Stamey, a new instructor from Wichita State who teaches students over 1,000 miles away.
During the first week of classes this semester, Stamey accepted the position at WSU to teach a photojournalism course virtually from his home in Florida. He started teaching on the Monday of the second week of classes.
Education is in Stamey’s blood, he says.
“My mother was a school principal and teacher for about 30 years, my brother is now a secondary school teacher,” Stamey said. “I always wanted to be an educator and follow in my grandfather’s footsteps.”
His passion for photography was transmitted to him by his grandfather.
“My grandfather gave me his old camera,” Stamey said. “I started taking photography classes in high school, then I started working for my high school newspaper and yearbook.”
Stamey quickly found her favorite part of photography.
“When I’m behind the lens or behind the camera, everything else disappears. Nothing else matters except to create that image,” Stamey said. “It’s such an amazing escape.”
While at Kansas State University, he served as photo editor for the newspaper and yearbook. This is where he found his favorite part of journalism.
“I love finding this cool, interesting story about someone that no one would ever find, that no one would ever know unless there was a reporter telling their story,” Stamey said.
After earning a communications degree from Kansas State University in 2003 and working at a newspaper in Louisiana, Stamey moved to Gainesville, Florida and worked at the Gainesville Sun where he worked for six years.
At WSU, Stamey takes pride in his classroom being a place where photojournalists can discuss content and learn more than just how a camera works.
“Nobody asks what kind of hammer a carpenter uses, it doesn’t matter,” Stamey said. “The knowledge of the carpenter is in the brain and knew how to use this hammer to build a house. Photography is that same concept where you need to know what your camera settings are, use the settings to create the image. You have to have a concept and understand how light works and how sunlight travels and where it bounces, what kind of shadows are created and understand the fundamental concept of photography and know that it’s not about “do you take Canon or Nikon photos”.’ It does not matter.
He also wants his students to know that since everyone has access to a cell phone, everyone can take pictures. For this reason, he wants to prepare his students to be ahead of the game.
“I want to give them the tools and the knowledge to be at least one step ahead of everyone else taking pictures now,” he said.
Teaching during a pandemic brought Stamey a unique set of issues; however, he considers himself an “always optimist”.
“Yeah, we’re in a pandemic so it’s hard to find photos, great, it’s a challenge. You’ll only become a better photographer because you have to work harder to find photos,” Stamey said. “What’s so important with photography is that it, especially photojournalism, documents history. You preserve a moment in time that might not otherwise be remembered.”
He asks his students to have at least one person in each of their photos in an effort to challenge and teach his students more.
Stamey encourages students to remain patient as they transition to a new mode of education.
“This pandemic is something that everyone is going through. Be open-minded and patient and just try to make the best of the situation,” he said.
To see more of his work, Stamey’s Instagram photography is @stamey.