As many students at Southern Utah University may have noticed, people take a lot of photos everywhere at the university. At every game, every event, even just ordinary days on campus, there are people with cameras that are capturing life at SUU; they capture the moments that make the college experience special here, but who are the people behind these cameras?
Here at SUU, we have two. Asher Swan, the university photographer, and Troy Edler, the university videographer. These men have been documenting SUU for over five years now and show no sign of slowing down. Their photos are on billboards, their footage seen across the country – their work surrounds us every day.
Today, I want to give an introduction to the men behind the camera so that the next time you see a guy in a funky hat pointing a camera at you on campus, you might have some idea of who he is.
Swan has worked as a photographer for SUU since 2018 after he triple-majored in psychology, communication and photography, though he has been doing photography his whole life.
“I got my first camera when I was four,” Swan said. “It was just a little toy camera given to me for Christmas and I carried it with me everywhere. I got my first film camera at 10 and then all my money went to developing film and learning the craft.”
He said that the connection to people is what draws him so much to photography.
“As a kid, I could walk up to any adult, point my camera and I would get a smile. And even now, being older, I still point my camera and I still get that smile,” he said. “It’s been like positive reinforcement my whole life. I can freeze this moment and make intrinsic connections with people.”
Light is an obvious component of Swan’s work – one that he always looks for.
“I love dancing with light,” he said. “I love understanding how it’s creating depth and contrast. I love the way it brings drama to an image.”
Swan started working for SUU as a student in 2010 when he happened to walk by the school newspaper office and noticed a need for photographers. He worked there for two years, then created a position within the Marketing and Communications office as a student photographer. A couple of years after he graduated, SUU created a full-time photographer position and he has been here ever since.
Swan brought up the university’s 125th anniversary it is celebrating this year.
“I like the long-term effect of being the university’s photographer,” he said. “We’re looking back at our history right now, looking at these photos right now from Boyd Redington who was the university photographer for 42 years for this campus. There was a person behind these pictures – he had a vision and a way he wanted to tell his story.”
Now Swan is taking those photos.
“My pictures from my time here are telling a piece of our history that people will look back on someday,” he said. “I’m making these connections and they will leave a lasting impression because people will be able to utilize the moments I’m capturing forever.”
Swan also has a studio in town, Asher Swan Photo Video, where he does his own work. He specializes in commercial advertising and portraits. To see his work or book a session, you can view his website here.
Edler has been at SUU since 2017 but his work has taken him all over the country and he continues to create freelance videos.
He grew up in Nevada and went to college at the University of Nevada Reno where he got a degree in New Media Art. He was the first student to get such a degree from that university.
Edler said that he loved TV shows and movies growing up and that they influenced a lot of his work as well.
“My first video job was as a student in college for athletics but even when I wasn’t doing that, I worked in Blockbuster where I was surrounded by movies all the time and I could talk to people about cinematography,” he said. “I learned so much from both of those experiences, just kind of soaking up knowledge all the time. From there, I jumped into television after graduating.”
He worked as a news producer for 10 years before he came to SUU because they were hiring their first videographer.
“I’m really happy I came here because I feel incredibly fulfilled in the work I do,” he said. “I’m telling stories that matter, that can uplift people and I’m marketing something that I believe in. That makes a big difference for me.”
When it comes to his work, Edler has a mantra he sticks with: Sight, sound, motion, emotion. He always hopes that his videos will affect and move people who see them.
He said that he still gets excited about all the experiences he gets through his videography at SUU.
“I love that I get to tell brand new stories all the time. I’m never bored,” Edler said. “I get to live vicariously through other people’s experiences and sometimes shoots take me to amazing places like hanging out of a helicopter. It’s really cool.”
One of his favorite projects he said that he has worked on was a 10th anniversary special for 9/11 that he did for Music & the Spoken Word, a religious radio and TV series. He flew to New York and D.C. to get footage of memorials and sites important to that day.
“That job taught me that there’s so many experiences to be had in the world of videography,” he said. “That was an experience I would never have had not working in this field and it helped me realize that I can hold my own in this world and that I’m really worth something as a videographer.”
His advice to anyone interested in this world is to avoid holding yourself back.
“Diversify yourself, take gigs that might pay less but will give you amazing experiences and don’t sell yourself short,” he said. “Video can take you so many places. Take advantage of that as much as you can.”
Story by: McKayla Olsen
Photos courtesy of Asher Swan and Troy Edler