RIT visual media student Sam Su photographs Olympic athlete training camp

Su spent a week in the Cayman Islands with Protean Sports and their athlete training program

Sam Su

Visual media student Sam Su captured this image of Chris Royster taking off from a block start in a morning training session at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in Grand Cayman.

Sam Su, a third-year photographic and imaging arts/visual media option major from New York City, has partnered with athletic companies to photograph products and athletes. He recently went to the Cayman Islands and photographed Olympic athletes training for Protean Sports.

Tell us a little about your process when it comes to taking photos. What gets your creative mind flowing?

The biggest inspiration for a lot of my ideas and concepts usually comes from other photographers, videographers, and filmmakers in the industry. Movies, music, and pop culture are my biggest sources of inspiration. I can take so many elements and just be inspired. You can break down a message and communicate it to someone else through art. I think that is really beautiful and that’s what gets me going every day. I love creating. I live to create. That’s what makes my job so much more fun. I’m able to communicate my feelings about the world in an art form that anybody can understand.

Can you tell me about the projects you've been working on?

My most recent project is for a company called Protean Sports. It’s founded by Jennifer O’Reilly, an amazing woman who used to be a Nike executive. She found my work through Instagram. Protean Sports hosts a selection of athletes that go to the Cayman Islands for a training camp. Currently, they have a three-month-long training camp for 15 international athletes who are preparing for this year’s Olympics. O’Reilly liked my style and gave me an opportunity to fly down and see what I could do in a week. We would go to the track and document the training. Seeing the speed of the athletes and how hard they work is unbelievable. One morning it rained, and those were some of my best photos. I had full creative control, which is one of the biggest compliments you can get.

How much would you say that classes at RIT have prepared you when it comes to pitching ideas or having creative freedom in projects?

I’ve learned about the importance of networking. Skill is very important, obviously, but I fully believe that if you don’t know how to network, you will never get as far as the most prolific photographers. Being able to put in extra hours, to go the extra mile, and to do more than the assignment asked for will teach you so many skills.

I’ve created a niche for myself and, at RIT, there are so many different ways that people do things that I just love. Connecting with them and seeing how they work is enough to make me better because it gives me the chance to learn. There are so many students here that are so much better than I am, and that just makes me excited to want to learn from them.

How does it feel to be sought out by these large companies and to have them admire your photography and want to partner with you?

This is the start, the tip of the iceberg for me. I’ve sent out so many emails and I’ve put in so many hours of work, but it doesn't mean I’m going to stop getting better. It’s a really cutthroat industry so it’s important that what we have to offer is making the industry more inclusive and accessible. With the developments of technology, some of the best cameras are in our phones. But, the work that I put into my Instagram and my portfolio shows the number of hours I take to making it look presentable and professional.


What advice would you give to other students?

Keep creating, keep networking, and stay humble. The most important thing about being in a creative industry is just being nice. I would rather work with someone who is fun and not so skilled, but willing to learn, than work with someone who is the most insane photographer I’ve ever met but terrible to work with.

Lastly, what drew you to RIT?

The level of networking, along with the connections, facilities, equipment, and expertise in the photo and other creative programs. We have one of the greatest photo and video schools in the country.

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