By Alyssa Martin, Social Media Manager–
To some, Billy Weeks may just seem like an average UTC professor; however, underneath his immense humility, he has impeccable camera skills, with many awards to show for it, as well as a kind, caring heart.
Weeks is from Fort Oglethorpe, GA near Chattanooga, and he is an UTC alum who also finished his degree at Bryan College taking night classes.
He has travelled all over the world taking pictures for various organizations. A few of the countries he has visited include Haiti, Laos, Africa, and Guatemala, all just in 2017; he also spent the better part of ten years travelling for international assignments. However, he said before his world-travel career took off, he started off working for the University Echo and Times Press.
Weeks explained photojournalism as visual storytelling. To write a story, an author can source inspiration from anywhere in the world; however, for photojournalists to tell a story, they must immerse themselves in the culture and live the story.
“As soon as I figured out what photojournalism was, I was interested in it,” said Weeks. “I think visual storytelling is extremely important. [To me], the still photo is the strongest communication element in the world. Once I figured out what that meant and how to do it, I was hooked from then on.”
Weeks hopes that through his classes, students learn to see situations in a different light; although grasping how to take photos is a major part of his classes, above all, he hopes that students learn how to tell the stories of others in a respectable manner.
His ultimate goal is to prepare a student to eventually take over his job and to keep the photojournalism department alive at UTC.
“What we do is more valuable today than it has ever been,” said Weeks. “The job market is tough, but [what we do] can change lives quicker and faster than any kind of communication, and I am always humbled when I see a student come in with a great piece of work; sometimes it will really get to me.”
Weeks’ portfolio and stories are inspiring to hear and see; however, the true essence of his presence and existence can be best seen in the way his students’ speak of him.
Ashley Rutledge, former UTC Communication major, has known Weeks since the beginning of her senior year when she enrolled in his entry level photojournalism class. Since then, she has worked with him on the Echo and has taken an additional two classes with him.
She credits Weeks as being her mentor, even though he does not realize the impact he has made on her life and the lives of other students.
“What hasn’t he taught me?” said Rutledge. “Billy is a great mentor; I don’t know if he knows he is my mentor, but he definitely is.”
Among the technical lessons of taking photos, Rutledge said Weeks has vitally taught her how to preserve stories and to treat people with respect and humility when approaching them. She also said that he is the most humble, inspiring, and talented person she knows.
Prior to taking his class, Rutledge aspired to work in the marketing or communication field in some aspect; however, since meeting Weeks, she has changed her career path to wanting to help those who are not able to help themselves by pursuing journalism and photojournalism.
“Taking pictures with him anytime is a huge honor, which I am starting to take more seriously now that I am graduating,” said Rutledge.
Her favorite memory with him involves the first UTC football game she covered, when he took the time to make sure she got the perfect picture from the top of the stadium, helping her with settings and positions. Rutledge said his talent and willingness to help goes above and beyond any other professor she has had; he is one of a kind.
Rutledge is not the only student that feels this way. Along with many other students, Cade Deakin, former UTC Communications major, also notes Weeks’ dedication to his students and career.
Deakin came into his first class with Weeks not having much knowledge of how to take a still photograph, yet he is leaving UTC wanting to do nothing more than to take photos for the rest of his life.
Similarly to Rutledge, Deakin’s favorite memory of Weeks involves his first time taking pictures at a UTC football game. Deakin recalls vigorously trying to get the perfect shot, and when he showed his photo to Weeks, he informed him he had the photo bug.
“As humble as he is, you would not know how good he is,” said Deakin. “It amazes me that someone with his clout in the photo world would be teaching at UTC; he could be travelling the world… but he chooses to be in Chattanooga.”
Deakin describes Weeks as being the best teacher he has had at UTC and the best mentor he could have. Weeks put Deakin on a different path of wanting to help less fortunate people from behind the camera.
“You could text him in the middle of the night, and he would help you if he could; he is that kind of guy,” said Deakin.
As evidenced from both students, Weeks has the talent to be taking photographs on significantly bigger assignments; however, he chose to come back to UTC to teach the next generation of photojournalists. Both students said he cares more about his students than any other professor they have had.
“My one word to describe Billy is inspiring,” said Deakin.
“One word to describe Billy?” said Rutledge. “Caring.”