Matt Cashore is the senior university photographer for the University of Notre Dame. His photos have been published in Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and ESPN The Magazine. Matt has photographed all but two football seasons since 1990. As a student he was a yearbook employee and now he’s one of the most well-known photographers Notre Dame has ever known.
Q & A with Matt Cashore
What got you hooked to be in student yearbook?
“I knew as a student coming here that I wanted to do some form of photography, be it loose photography or creative photography, something visual as a career. It was already known to me before setting foot on campus so working for the yearbook was part of the plan, I started doing that even before the school year officially started. My cousin was the yearbook editor and had already recruited me so my first assignment as the yearbook photographer was shooting my own freshman orientation. At the time shooting football games was the most important thing you could do for the yearbook so of course I wanted to do the most important thing I could.”
What is it for you about capturing those great moments? What does it feel like when you look at the final product of those game winning or very emotional moments?
“Most of them you realize are important there in the moment, some of them you don’t realize are as important as they are until shortly or even long afterwards, and some you think are so critical and really they are not. So I’m never so excited about getting a picture or so disappointed about missing a picture. As an example, in 2006 Notre Dame came from behind to beat UCLA and Jeff Samardzja caught the game winning touchdown. You knew that was going to be important as soon as I clicked the shutter, and it was. It was my first major sports illustrated clip also which was really cool. On the other hand when Charlie Weis took over he stopped the tradition of holding up the helmets to salute the student section, in favor of having the team sing the alma mater. The unintended consequence was the entire team no longer held up their helmets and so one of the last games of 2004 I got a really nice picture of a player holding up his helmet that had all of the nice elements to it. It had a look to it that really worked and I didn’t realize it in 2004 but that’s going to be one of the last times you’re ever going to see the entire team hold their helmets in the air at Notre Dame Stadium after a game. It’s become somewhat of an iconic image.”
What’s it like to look back on all the traditions and events that people don’t remember?
“I kick myself for being a lousy archivist early on, when I was shooting film. Shooting digital has made me a much better archivist because you can have multiple copies. People throw around the word tradition, and you realize that traditions come and go and aren’t as tradition as people might think. I can tell you when some traditions started and believe it or not they didn’t always do everything we do today. (So) Having a 25 year memory of ND football is not as tradition as traditionalists might think. What stands out is it’s nice the University has become aware of the entire Game Day experience and it’s not just about four hours between the start of the clock and the triple zero.”
How do you start off your Game Day? What’s your routine?
“Well I have to bring a lot of stuff to campus. I get to campus at about 9 am. People believe I’m watching football from a really good seat. A. It’s not a really good seat. B. It’s a lot more mental energy to be prepared for what’s about to happen than people think. So the fact that I have to capture pictures mean that I have to be familiar with both teams’ rosters, there starters, etc. I have to have all of my gear ready to avoid surprises then I walk campus for a few hours and try to capture some of the pageantry and spirit of the day. Most days I have a goal to capture a specific part of Game Day.”
What’s the neatest moment you captured on campus?
“Nothing stands out as the neatest moment. They are all neat in their own way. Every game has its’ own moments, everyone has different interest. I love it when my photos have some sort of result and that result could be as simple as re-tweeting it on twitter, it could be a major sports clip, or on USA Today. Then there are the times someone contacts me and says “that picture meant a lot to me” for whatever reason. It happens quite a bit and it’s very very energizing for me. I love it when my pictures have a result. Pictures have a value that can last for so long, that’s what makes pictures powerful.”
What was your favorite moment captured on the field?
“Again you don’t always realize how important each picture is until maybe a little bit after or a lot after. A picture that is going to be associated with me forever, I’ll look back at the end of my career and say that’s one of the five pictures I would want to be most remembered for was this past season at the end of the Stanford game. It was a shot of Manti Teo celebrating the victory. The reaction from the fans caught me off guard.”
What does it mean to you to know that you’re part of the Notre Dame family not just as an alumni but as the one who captures the Universitys’ valuable moments?
“It’s really important to capture history because 75 years from now somebody hopefully will look back and say thank goodness we have this chapter of history. So I feel that responsibility, thank goodness someone thought to shoot four men on horses, thank goodness someone kept track of it. The University Archives department is one of the more underappreciated groups at the University. Thank god for them. There’s an obligation to preserve, we may not realize it now but years from now someone will be grateful that we did.”
Be sure to check all of Matt’s work at photos.nd.edu