PITTSBURG, Kan. —
For 26 years, he has been the man behind the lens. The name underneath thousands of photographs depicting the raising and tearing down of walls, the handshakes of presidents, the crowning of queens.
On the campus of Pittsburg State University, that is.
Half of Malcolm Turner’s workspace is a large, well-lit room on the first floor of Whitesitt Hall. When he began the job, he used a darkroom, chemical processing and cameras loaded with film.
“This is about as far as you can get from a darkroom,” said Turner, gesturing at his environment as it is today.
From the hallway, the workspace is unassuming, marked only by a sign that indicates it is a storm shelter. On the inside, the studio lights, collection of cameras and his large color prints lining the walls reveal its true purpose.
Several computer monitors -- including one that is 30 inches wide -- and an archive of about 200,000 digital images illustrate the changes Turner has seen since he began as the PSU chief photographer. The other half of Turner’s workspace is the 275 acres that comprise the university campus. In each area, inside and out, he knows exactly what position to shoot from and what camera settings to use.
“I’ve been doing it so long, it has become second nature,” he said.
Turner went all digital in 2000, and in the past year has begun shooting high-definition video using a digital single lens reflex camera. Way back when, he sent color film off to be processed and got it back in about a week. Today, he fires off 10 to 15 frames per second and can upload the shots within minutes of shooting them.
“My first camera, a Nikon, was not as high a resolution as my cellphone today,” he said.
Turner’s career has included photographing a head-and-shoulders shot of every Gorilla athlete in every sport every year for media guides and other materials -- about 100 a sport, he said. It has included shooting the construction and dedication of new buildings, and in the past decade there have been many.
“We’ve had the Bryant Health Center, the rec center, the veterans memorial, the Crimson Commons, the Polymer Center, the family and consumer sciences building and, of course, the renovations of Russ Hall,” he said, tallying them from memory. “And the work on the stadium and the ball fields. And the Weede.”
He also has captured images of several buildings that have since been torn down, such as the fire station on the corner of Joplin Street and Lindburg Avenue.
His career has spanned the terms of four university presidents: Don Wilson, John Darling, Tom Bryant and Steve Scott. It has included the famous, such as White House correspondent Helen Thomas, and the not-so-famous, such as students walking across the oval on the way to class.
And it has included the routine: Annual homecoming convocations, parades and scholarship presentations -- the “grip and grins,” as Turner calls them, when the shots don’t vary much from year to year. That, he says, is OK.
“Some things you can never change,” he said. “A grip and grin is a grip and grin. It is what it is.”