Students may know Hal Cook as the man who took their headshots the past two weeks, but his role is much more extensive.
The man behind the camera is the supervisor of the photo team in the marketing communications department at BJU. The work of the photo team involves documenting events and BJU offerings for BJU published materials, social media and the website.
“My primary purpose here is marketing and making sure things are running smoothly [in that department],” Cook said. Another big part of his role is helping student photographers understand what good quality work is and getting their work shot and delivered on time. He works as the photography adviser for the Vintage and The Collegian.
Cook said he didn’t plan to work at BJU when he graduated from the business program in 1990 and began his career in commercial photography. “My bread and butter was product photography, shooting little trinkets,” Cook said.
Cook said his time working in commercial photography taught him what good quality work looked like. He realized that there were not many Christians in the field. “My desire was to come here and train Christian photographers to go out and work in the workplace and spread the Word,” Cook said.
Cook began working at BJU in 2002. His role initially consisted of shooting for Vintage and all BJU academia as well as doing portrait photography. At that time, weddings in War Memorial Chapel happened every Friday and Saturday through the summer and once a month during the academic year. Cook would photograph for the school during the week and then work a wedding on those weekends.
When BJU created a photography minor, Cook taught multiple photography classes on top of being a full-time photographer for the University. Although he has since stepped away from teaching classes to be a full-time photographer he has assisted in a photojournalism class and enjoys getting to see students gain practical knowledge through the classroom experience.
Cook said that every teacher should be able to promise at the beginning of the semester that they are going to do their best to teach something to the students that they do not already know. One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching in the classroom for Cook is the satisfaction that comes from teaching students something they did not know and seeing them finally get it. “The joy was always seen when the lightbulb came on,” he said.
Cook’s job also entails working with important people in the community. “The responsibility is there,” Cook said. “The privilege is there. It’s a full package.”
Because of the nature of his job, people Cook has never met have stopped him to comment on his work. “It just goes to remind you that what you do, whether you realize it or not, is getting watched,” Cook said.
Cook believes that the most recent thing he photographs should, in a sense, be his best and most exciting work. He fondly remembers photographing the Bruins’ starting season as well as Othello, which hit the front cover of the Sunday paper. He credits his success to the work of collaboration. “It’s not just what I have done. It’s what other people have done with me and working together as a team,” Cook said.