A look back 2022-23

By Johnny Andrews, University Communications

Whether they are attending formal ceremonies and major milestone events, making portraits of our community or finding candid moments on Polk Place and across campus, Carolina photographers capture life as a Tar Heel and show what makes UNC-Chapel Hill so special.

With another academic year in the books, University Photographer Johnny Andrews looked back at some memorable photographs from key moments of this year and shares the story behind them.

People riding on a boat with a large mountain behind them.

Study abroad in the Galapagos

Study abroad students ride on the back of a boat after a field trip to Kicker Rock in the Galapagos Islands on July 2, 2022.

One of the benefits of studying abroad is the opportunity to immerse yourself fully into the culture and environment outside of the classroom. All of the students studying abroad in the Galapagos were staying with host families in different parts of the town while speaking Spanish. These new experiences helped develop and inform students on a personal level and academically, all of which they bring back with them to Chapel Hill.

The bell tower lit up in Carolina Blue at night.

The Bell Tower at night

Vehicles and pedestrians travel past the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower during Carolina’s Week of Welcome on Aug. 13, 2022.

The Bell Tower was lit up in Carolina Blue to mark the beginning of the school year, and the colorful streaks in the photo were achieved by using a slow shutter speed of almost two seconds with my camera. Since I didn’t have a tripod with me at the time, I placed the camera on the sidewalk across the street from the Bell Tower and propped it up at an angle with my camera bag to keep it steady. It took about half an hour of sitting on the sidewalk to get the right combination and timing of pedestrians walking down the sidewalk across the street with a large bus and the accompanying headlights and window lights passing by.

Students hugging on Polk Place.

Week of Welcome

Students greet each other on Polk Place on the first day of classes on Aug. 15, 2022.

There is always a distinct energy on campus on the first day of classes. When looking for moments such as these two students at the very beginning of a hug, it’s just a matter of patience and location. I usually find an area on campus where there is a lot of traffic during class changes, get my camera and lens ready, and wait. There are times when you can spend up to an hour looking for a moment such as this one and find nothing, and then there are times when it all comes together, making it worth the wait.

Four students sitting in a row boat.

Carolina Global Launch in Spain

First-year students in the Carolina Global Launch program row boats at Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain, on Sept. 22, 2022.

The path to UNC-Chapel Hill for Carolina Global Launch students begins with a fall semester studying abroad at one of three universities in Europe. They participate in field trips, visit historic landmarks and museums and sample local cuisines while immersing themselves in the local culture and completing required coursework. For many of the students, this was the first time they had ever been out of the country. When you factor in that this was also their very first college experience, there is a lot for them to digest after just graduating from high school.

Many of the students said that the Carolina Global Launch program made the transition to college easier because they were able to experience this moment in their lives with a small group of about 50 other students. In the past few months, I have come across at least a dozen students I photographed in Spain, hanging out together in Chapel Hill, having already developed friendships in a foreign country before they even set foot on campus.

A person walks on the beach at sunrise.

Tar Heel Bus Tour sunrise

Nianbo Dong, an associate professor in the School of Education, walks along the beach in Nags Head at sunrise during a stop on the Tar Heel Bus Tour in October.

The Tar Heel Bus Tour provides faculty and administrators the opportunity to learn about our state, visit communities that many Carolina students call home, see the University’s impact on North Carolina and interact with people and programs that can inform their teaching and research. While there is a full schedule of tours, talks and visits for every day of the bus tour, this image was made as participants enjoyed downtime before the start of the day’s activities.

The James Cates memorial.

James Cates memorial

Flowers rest next to a marker that was permanently installed next to the Pit on Nov. 21, 2022, to memorialize the death of James Lewis Cates Jr., who was killed outside the Student Union in 1970 in a racist attack.

A memorial dedication ceremony with members of the campus community and surviving family members and friends of Cates was held earlier in the day. Extra lights were installed in the Pit after the ceremony and kept on throughout the night as an extended part of the dedication.

A graduate throws their cap into the air.

Cap toss at the Old Well

Graduating senior Priyanshi Aeron tosses her cap in the air during a photo session at the Old Well on April 20.

As their final semester on campus came to an end, many seniors waited in line to have their photos taken at the Old Well by friends or photographers while wearing Carolina Blue graduation garb. I normally swing by the Old Well a couple of times a day during this time of year, and I happened upon Aeron and a couple of her friends making photos of each other.

After taking a few photos of her up close, I decided to try a different angle, so I crossed the street and walked up a few steps outside of the South Building entrance. That’s when Aeron began tossing her cap in the air.

Students at graduation.

Spring Commencement

Graduating seniors listen to speakers during the Spring Commencement ceremony on May 14 at Kenan Stadium.

When making images of annual events such as this one, I’m always scanning the crowd for moments such as a hug, an expression or just something that I haven’t seen before. This time I saw something bright and green out of the corner of my eye. Once I noticed the student wearing those sunglasses, I thought it contrasted nicely against the sea of Carolina Blue.

Thankfully, I was on a platform that put me at a higher angle that would make the image possible, but a bunch of other graduates still obscured the green sunglass-wearing student. All I could do was focus on the person next to them and hope that eventually, they would pop their head up while the person in front of them would move to the side. It took nearly 15 minutes of waiting, watching and holding my camera in position, but eventually, everything came together.