Renée C. Byer ’80
Renée C. Byer ’80 distinctly remembers when she became a shutterbug. Photography was her dad’s hobby, and he always had several cameras around the house. She was about 8 when she became intrigued with helping him develop pictures in the small darkroom he had set up in the bathroom. After recognizing her interest, her mom gave her a Brownie Instamatic camera, and she started taking her own pictures. “Initially, I was intrigued by the pictures,” Byer commented. “I never thought I would be a photographer, but I really enjoyed taking photographs. I recall as a child going to the top of the Statue of Liberty and actually shooting down. I was sort of amazed by all the people who looked so tiny below. I remember it clearly.”
It wasn’t until her senior year at Bradley, however, that Byer realized she wanted to study photojournalism. Howard Goldbaum, former associate professor of communication, provided some inspiration. During her internship at the Journal Star, she decided she could make a living at photography and knew it was the right field for her. Ironically, one of her first assignments was a Bradley Braves basketball game under the guidance of Journal Star photographer Alan Harkrader ’54 MA ’74, who took Byer under his wing and helped her figure out which lenses to use and how to arrive at assignments prepared.
“Alan sat me under the net with a 50mm lens, and just told me to hit the button,” said Byer. “Back then, there were no motor drives. It was just frame and click, click, click. Sports taught me about timing and capturing moments, techniques that have stayed with me. I still like the daily mix of finding something new and fresh to shoot.”
Throughout her more than 25 years as a news photographer and editor, Byer has photographed the entire gamut, from news and portraits, to personally rewarding work in feature stories. “I’ve done several in-depth, socially relevant stories that are most rewarding because they can make a difference in people’s lives,” Byer said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Byer’s series on biotechnology, “Seeds of Doubt,” includes this photo of a two-year-old African boy who suffered from malnutrition. The series won her the 2005 Harry Chapin Media Award for World Hunger in Photojournalism. She also won the 2005 McClatchy President’s Award for her photographs in the “Women at War” series. During her career Byer has won awards from the National Press Photographers Association, Society of News Design, the Associated Press, and the Best of the West photo
View Byer's online portfolio. Go>