History of Professorship

Bobby Model taking photos of dancers

Based on a story written by Sunnie Lew, UW Foundation

When viewing Bobby Model’s photography portfolio, his spirit of adventure is evident. His work is nothing short of gripping—images of vast landscapes at dusk, climbers scaling seemingly impossible boulders and intimate portraits illustrating culture, labor, and joy. He was a storyteller, highly skilled in capturing whole narratives within a single shot.

“As a climber you find yourself in so many beautiful locations,” Bobby Model said, “often early in the morning and late in the evening when the light is perfect. It’s an ideal perspective.”

In 2019, the Bobby Model Professorship in Photojournalism and the Bobby Model Excellence Fund in Photojournalism were established in the Communication and Journalism Department by Bob Model to honor his son. Bobby passed away in September 2009 while recovering from a tragic accident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury that had occurred in South Africa two years prior.

In fall 2021, the first Model professor, Shane Epping, began to teach students photojournalism and visual communication skills.

“Students for decades to come will be touched by the classes and other projects that will be conducted because of the excellence fund,” COJO Department Head Cindy Price Schultz said.  “What a remarkable gift to commemorate Bobby’s life!”

In his short 36 years, Bobby Model followed his passions and lived an extraordinary life. He was an explorer of the world, drawn to the beauty of natural landscapes and the human experience. Born in 1973, Bobby grew up on a ranch near Cody. He had a deep appreciation for remote areas and mountainous terrain.
While earning his degree in environmental economics at the University of Wyoming, Bobby discovered photography.

“What really impressed me about Bobby was his humility and his desire for continued growth,” Ken Smith, professor emeritus of journalism, said. “He was focused from the start. As a student, he knew what he wanted to achieve through photography. As a professional, he quickly accomplished these goals.”
Bobby had an incredible gift and received international recognition for his breathtaking photos. Over the course of his career, he covered mountaineering expeditions spanning five continents. An exhibit of Bobby’s was featured at the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture, and his work was published in National Geographic, Outside, New York Times, and Mother Jones.

In addition to being a remarkable photographer, Bobby was also a proficient climber, picking up the sport at 15. In 1995, he was asked by professional free climber Todd Skinner to join a Wyoming team of “cowboy climbers,” giving him the opportunity to participate in the world’s first grade VII free climb at the Trango Towers in Pakistan. The climb requires an extraordinary level of skill, tenacity and heart.

The Wyoming climbing team earned acclaim for the expedition, which was covered in the April 1996 issue of National Geographic. A photo of Bobby ascending the steep granite tower above the alpine rock valley was featured on its cover. Images he shot during the expedition were also published in the issue. He would later be selected as an Emerging Explorer by the National Geographic Society Missions Program.

In 1997, after graduating from the University of Wyoming with honors, Bobby’s view of what adventure photography could be changed during his internship with National Geographic magazine. His passions led him to photojournalism, where his work addressed geopolitical and social issues. During his travels, he was captivated by culture and humanity.

“I remember him showing me photos from Pakistan that were shot 15 miles beyond the furthest reaches of electricity,” Smith said. “I also remember him showing some from Africa where a minor cut could become a major problem due to infection from the dung in the air.”

Bobby’s magnetic personality made it easy for him to connect with others. It was said, whether sharing a strong coffee somewhere in the remote reaches of the world or drinking a beer on his deck in Cody, time spent with Bobby was always an adventure.

“When you cover issues in faraway cultures, you arrive as a complete outsider. It’s essential to find something in common with people, some way to connect,” Bobby said. “One minute I may be having tea with a village elder and need to prove my knowledge of his culture and history. The next moment, I could be standing in a field with a local farmer. Only by forming friendships and earning trust am I allowed to document truly powerful experiences.”

In 2004, as Bobby began to explore topics of culture and justice, he set up a base of operations in Nairobi, Kenya, to cover current events in South Africa. There, through his dedication and thoughtful approach, he was able to honor the stories of many.

Both the Bobby Model Professorship in Photojournalism and the Bobby Model Excellence Fund in Photojournalism will provide immense support for UW students.

“The Model funding will allow us to expand our expertise and create an area of emphasis for our students in this very important area,” Price Schultz said. “We look forward to a growing national reputation in photojournalism.”

Bobby was truly an inspiration, enriching the lives of all who knew him. Offering UW students the opportunity to develop and nurture a love for photojournalism is something his father Bob Model knows is a fitting tribute to the son he loves so much.

To view Bobby’s work, visit his web page at m-11.com (which signifies “Model-County 11” since he called Cody home).

Contact Us

COJO Department

Ross Hall Rm.#223

Dept. #3904

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-3122

Email: cojoofc@uwyo.edu

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