Memories of Bobby Model

Written by Emeritus Professor Dr. Ken Smith

In my years at UW, I had over 2,500 students take my photography class. Bobby Model was one of the three top students to ever take the class. Bobby 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.
What really impressed me about Bobby was his humility and his desire for continued growth. 

After he had already achieved impressive success, he asked me if I would critique some of his photos. I remember my embarrassment as I viewed the photos because here was someone with an international reputation showing me photos I could not begin to execute. As a professor, I had nothing to profess. Then he started telling stories about the photos.

I remember him showing me photos from Pakistan that were shot 15 miles beyond the furthest reaches of electricity. 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. The images that he showed me would astound an American audience who couldn't begin to comprehend life without electricity. I suggested that he should begin to emphasize the stories behind photos he was already shooting. As was typical of Bobby, he apparently listened because not long after that National Geographic honored him with an award as an up-and-coming cultural photographer.

In April 2000, we brought Bobby back to campus for a presentation of his work titled “Photography on the Vertical Plane.” The turnout was overwhelming and I was always very proud that I had two former students who could attract overflow audiences anytime they returned to campus (the other is Joe Riis who specializes in Wyoming wildlife migrations). As a world traveler with an international reputation, Bobby’s local reputation obviously did not leave UW upon his graduation.

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