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UVA’s director of photography reflects on a year of working solo

Matt Riley, the director for photography for University of Virginia Athletics, taking a photo...
Matt Riley, the director for photography for University of Virginia Athletics, taking a photo of a Jayden Gardner.(WVIR)
Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - In the last year, Matt Riley covered 27 teams, attended more than 140 athletics games, and took 511,000 photos. The director of photography for University of Virginia Athletics worked each game solo. He could not have interns like in past years because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Wow, it’s been a long year, but it’s been a rewarding year because I did a lot of things this year that I had never done before,” Riley said.

Usually, Riley has five interns helping him. This year he was forced to tackle the field alone.

“If we’ve got five events on a Saturday, then you know I shoot one, and I have interns cover others, but this year I was covering all five events,” said Riley. “So I’m running around. There was one day that I walked 18 miles around our venues covering different sports. So it’s been a crazy year.”

At the beginning of the year, Riley wasn’t even allowed on the sidelines. He persevered to capture unique shots.

“You had to think creatively and get different vantage points that you usually don’t see, but it was actually cool because I got some different angles of things and we’re able to think outside of the box and show a different angle of the action happening,” he said.

500,000 photos means lots of late night editing and plenty of early mornings alone at the stadium.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my family because they sacrificed a lot,” said Riley. “I was gone a lot this year and my two kids at home and wife were very supportive and it’s nice to be able to finally get them to some events when we open some things back up.”

The sum of Riley’s feelings can be wrapped up in one of his last photos.

“My favorite image of the year actually just happened at the Men’s lacrosse Championship,” said Riley. “It’s like this joy that we’ve made it through a pandemic, that we’ve come out successful on the other side.”

Matt Riley has already started his count for the next athletics season, but he hopes to have a little more intern help this time around to join him in the next milestone.

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