by Chamberlain Zulauf
Even though Ryan Hunt belongs to the class of 2018 he’s still relevant around campus as the man behind the camera and the eyes of Roanoke’s student life. It might be a surprise to learn that Ryan graduated with a major in music, concentrating in marketing. You might not even know he’s been playing the piano since he was five. Or, that when Ryan was in middle school, he produced a song for Tyga and Lil Wayne. Seriously, it’s called 500 Degrees and is on Spotify. Peep the song credits.
“Somehow for whatever reason, I got lucky, and he listened,” said Ryan.
Classmates of his will remember when the handle was @ryanhuntmusik and not @ryanhuntphotography. In fact, the original plan was to focus on music. During his time as a student Ryan played keys in jazz band for seven semesters.
“So, when I was coming out of high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college for a career. Music was basically the only thing I was passionate about at the time, so I started taking music classes here,” said Ryan.
In jazz band and throughout the music major Ryan especially connected with his advisor and director Dr. Blaha, who retired the same year Ryan graduated. Ryan’s senior project was to replace the score of Star Wars: Rogue One using online software. For the project Ryan produced and hour and a half’s worth of full orchestral music for the movie’s soundtrack.
“My senior recital was basically me playing the movie with my music on top of it for my family, friends and some of the other music faculty and people here. That was definitely one of my favorite memories,” said Ryan.
Today Ryan plays music in local cover bands and for his church, Our Lady of Nazareth. His favorite college memory was playing background piano in the presidential mansion for Maxey’s Christmas parties his junior and senior years.
The passion for photography we all know Ryan for today didn’t get serious until his junior year,
“I kind of wanted to explore more with photography, starting my sophomore/junior year, so I invested in some nicer camera equipment. I reached out to the athletic office and the MarComm office of Roanoke College and also to the local Roanoke newspapers to see if there were any photography opportunities there,” said Ryan.
The transition into photography was cemented when a friend from high school connected Ryan with his dad who had been covering UVA sports at the Roanoke Times for 40 years.
“He gave me a shot and we went up to a couple UVA basketball together. Basically, I had no experience at all in sports, so the photos weren’t great but going to those games and sitting on the baseline with 10,000 people in the arena, it was a lot of fun, and I knew that was something I wanted to get into—being able to capture a moment”, said Ryan.
Ryan’s photography career has taken off since those UVA games. Ryan shoots for UVA sports, as well as Roanoke and works for USA Today in shooting football and basketball for Virginia Tech. He has even tapped into the wedding and family portrait market.
Students on campus today probably know him for shooting most of our senior photos, myself included.
“I remember the other photographers helping me out at those first UVA games, now I can consider myself one of those ‘real’ photographers. I’ve been doing photography for about five now but there’s still a lot to learn… My first assignment with [USA Today] was last April, shooting a NASCAR race in Martinsville. And that was definitely a super unique experience… Photography a lot of networking. That’s something that some people like and some people don’t. Some people get frustrated when you reach out and don’t hear back. But you just have to keep pushing at it. I’ve always loved computers and technology and social media—all that. So, it’s just it’s all just part of the trade. Another thing I really like about what I do is that my schedule is really never the same. Graduating, I could never see myself having a nine to five desk job because I love creative projects. I love creativity…. There’s a lot of breaking into the industry and learning on the fly. That’s something my freshman year self couldn’t have done; I didn’t get outside my comfort zone back then, but photography has allowed me—and sometimes even forced me— to break outside it”, said Ryan.
One of Ryan’s favorite quotes, and fridge magnets, is that ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’
“I have probably eight to ten favorite photos that I’ve taken across all the various kinds of things I shoot. One of my favorite photo sessions was photographing Taylor Swift at her Reputation concert tour in the summer of 2018 in Washington DC.
I got this awesome photo, there was a red light shining on [Taylor Swift] and she’s isolated by herself. It’s very cinematic… I actually have become a pretty big Taylor Swift Fan. I wasn’t a super big fan when I was in high school in college, but I really love a lot of her new music and especially seeing her in concert made me appreciate her”, said Ryan.
It’s been a successful and storied life after graduation for Ryan, campus is glad to still have him around. What he’ll miss the most from his student years is the time he got to spend with his friends while he was still able to see them frequently. He and his friends,
“Went to Commons together, Wing Night at Mac and Bobs, studied together and hung out. If I could give any advice to current students, it would be to appreciate the time you have right now. Once you graduate adulting hits you pretty quick. You don’t have time to hang out or just be stupid and be young and fun, kind of like you used to, so appreciating what you have is super important,” said Ryan.
Ryan sees the Roanoke College experience as a fun and transformative process to becoming an adult. Seeing the way everything has turned out for one of Roanoke’s most prolific Alumni, his time in the Roanoke Valley has been nothing less than picture-perfect.