The photographer behind the iPhone

Knoxville-based travel photographer Corey Wolfenbarger worked on four continents with several popular companies. He still does not understand how he earned his opportunities.

“Sometimes you do not know how these things happen,” Wolfenbarger said.

Wolfenbarger, 24, visited the University of Tennessee Wednesday, Jan. 31 for a talk in Lindsey Young Auditorium at John C. Hodges Library. He shared his photography journey and a few photo editing tips from apps on his smartphone.

Wolfenbarger got his start on Instagram and Tumblr in 2012. Now, his portfolio contains photos from companies like TOMS, Urban Outfitters and Holiday Inn.

Equipped with only his iPhone 5, he set his sights on the Blue Ridge Mountains and took as many photos as possible.

“I was sharing them on Instagram and getting twenty likes,” Wolfenbarger said. “Nobody was hyping my stuff but I was still really hyped on it.”

Wolfenbarger’s life revolved around photography during his college career. He often skipped class.

“I decided that if I took photos at sunrise or sunset then my photos were going to be way better,” Wolfenbarger said. “So, I would make the executive decision to not go to class anymore.”

In 2014, he decided to drop out of college. He moved in with his parents and turned his scope to the Great Smokey Mountains. Almost every day, Wolfenbarger took trips to the mountains. His photos gained popularity on social media.

New Year’s Eve 2015, something clicked to Wolfenbarger.

Surrounded by talented and successful photographers, he knew he could make a living by taking photos.

“I saw that if I work as hard as I can and stay humble and realize that I don’t know everything… give it my all and that I can do this and people will pay me eventually,” Wolfenbarger said. “If it was little at the time or whether it as nothing. I can make a living with this.”

By 2016, Wolfenbarger’s popularity increased, and he received requests to take photos. All he had at the time was his iPhone.

“I just had an iPhone,” Wolfenbarger said. “I was not going to out myself so I would make up some obscure excuse why I could not do it.”

He decided if he wanted to receive serious pay-work, he should buy a DSLR camera. New technology became a setback for Wolfenbarger because he only shot photos from his iPhone prior to requests. He knew he needed to progress.

“The DLSR was terrifying for me,” Wolfenbarger said. “I did not know how they worked. I did not know how I was going to edit my photos.”

Wolfenbarger initially struggled to learn the basics like aperture and shutter speed.

“When it clicks for you, it’s the most beautiful moment of all time,” Wolfenbarger said.

Wolfenbarger received many opportunities to work with companies in 2016, a “dream year” full of travel and unexpected chances.

Wolfenbarger continues to learn and strives to improve his photography. He is currently working several booklets and plans to travel to Yosemite National Park.

“It is very frustrating and it does have a lot of setbacks, but it is where I am at in my work right now in my photography,” Wolfenbarger said. “I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.

Edited by Chelsea Babin

Featured Photo by Sage Davis

Sarah McAffry Photography: A photography business with a mission

Photography is an art that transforms the way people see the world, and for prominent Knoxville photographer, Sarah McAffry, this hobby-turned career is about more than just taking pretty pictures.

McAffry graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English literature and began her career as an English teacher at Powell High School, but six years later, her desires had changed. For years she dabbled in photography as a hobby, and this interest eventually transformed into passion.

McAffry felt an urge to end her career as a teacher and pursue photography full-time.

“It was very clear that God had another path for me besides teaching, and I was sad to leave it because I loved it,” McAffry said.

In 2009 McAffry resigned from her position at Powell High School, unsure of the future, but confident in the steps she was taking.

“It was a total leap of faith, and literally hours later the door opened for me to step into this and kind of make this my next thing.”

Only a few hours after she quit her job, a friend of McAffry’s called to see if she would be interested in renting her studio while she was abroad. McAffry consented, and proceeded to dive into her career as a full-time photographer.

Despite having no professional training, McAffry was able to hone her skills as a photographer through dedicated practice and simply reading the manual. She began gaining attention as she posted her photos to her blog, specializing in senior and family portraits.

Today, eight years later, McAffry has transformed this hobby into a thriving photography business with a mission. Catering specifically to young girls and women, McAffry hopes that her photography helps her clients to see their own true beauty.

“What they see in their photos is who they really are, and who god created them to be, and I wanted them to see themselves as beautiful.”

In the age of social media, physical appearance is perceived as being the most important thing, especially for young girls, but McAffry wants to challenge this mindset. Her photo sessions focus not only on highlighting the girls’ outward beauty, but also revealing the beauty that lies within.

Initially, McAffry began her journey as a photographer in response to a leading she felt from God, and it is from this very same faith that McAffry’s passion for photography is fueled.

“I feel like having this job is a blessing from God in the first place, and I try to honor him in everything that I do and make sure that He gets the glory and not me.”

McAffry has been recognized as the best photographer in Knoxville by City View and the Knoxville News Sentinel, and although McAffry’s talent is a major driving force for her success, she attributes much of it to the business side of things.

“I really try to equally focus on the business side as much as I do the photography side.”

This full-time career has kept McAffry busy for the last several years. Most weeks consist of three to four photoshoots and lots of editing. She spends most of her time in her recently-converted studio in the heart of Downtown Powell, just 20 minutes outside of Knoxville. Here she edits, conducts her business and meets with clients to prepare for upcoming photoshoots.

McAffry constantly is in search for inspiration and ways to improve her craft. She adorns a wall in her office with dozens of photos from various style magazines to give her new ideas on poses and expressions for her clients, but her main inspiration comes from her family.

“Any time I take pictures of my own family and of my kids, that’s how I’m able to really grow and stretch and try new things.”

As McAffry continues to grow and expand her photography skills and her business, her faith remains as the main influence behind her work as she continues on her mission to empower young girls and women.

“Everything that we do here is not about us, but is honoring what God is allowing us to do here.”


Featured image by Haley Harbin

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo


TNJN Spotlight: The face behind the Humans of UTK page

caroline knight2
Caroline Knight, a sophomore at UT, created the Humans of UTK Facebook page to tell the stories of those on UT’s campus.

What started as a JEM 230 blog for sophomore and Journalism and Electronic Media major Caroline Knight shortly turned into much more when the page got the attention of University of Tennessee students.

Knight is the face behind the Humans of UTK Facebook page that showcases students around the University of Tennessee’s campus and has quickly gathered over 2,000 likes only a few weeks after its creation.

It is mirrored after the popular Humans of New York page created by Brandon Stanton.

With a passion for photography and the drive to do something different Knight knew that the page would be a unique project. She wanted to showcase the individuals that make of the university.

“You pass all these people, and you don’t recognize their faces, and you see a different person every day,” said Knight.

Knight’s love of the Humans of New York inspired her to showcase the people of UT.

”I just like hearing other people’s perspectives,” said Knight. “There are so many people in New York. Every single one of us has lived a different life up to this point. I just like learning about other people’s lives.”

Her love for other people’s stories made the page something fun for Knight to create.

“If you see a person wearing interesting clothes or if they look happy or sad it always made me want to talk to them,” said Knight. “I mean I’m a naturally curious person. “

Knight says she just goes with instinct when choosing people to photograph.

“I just kind of like take a shot in the dark with the people I choose,” said Knight. “And I’ll get people who will really open up to me and unleash their personal experiences.”

One popular picture that the Humans of UTK Facebook page featured was a student in the Hodges Library dressed in a striped suit.

“I want people to have a better understanding of people who don’t look like them,” said Knight. “The other day I took a photo of a guy that wore a striped suit from Uganda. I posted it because I wanted people to know that he was wearing it to feel more comfortable taking a test, not because he wanted to be a hipster or that he was trying to be different.”

Overall, Knight is glad that she started the page and hopes to continue inspiring others with unique stories.

“I’d like people to know that they are never really alone,” Knight said. “I want people to realize that there isn’t one person they wouldn’t love if they only knew their story.

As Knight continues to cultivate the page and showcase stories, one day she might even feature your story.

“I’m going to go find my human for today.”

You can check out Caroline Knight’s website here and the Humans of UTK page here.

Edited by Maggie Jones 

Nashville photographer shares passion for art with students

Brett Warren (middle) interacted with students after the lecture.
Brett Warren (middle) interacted with students after the lecture.

The Visual Arts Committee hosted an art talk with photographer, Brett Warren, on Sept. 25 in the McCarty Auditorium. The lecture served as a part of the committee’s initiative to introduce unique viewpoints to the student audience.

Born in McMinnville, Tenn. Warren became aware of the town’s limitations. He explained, “I always knew there was something outside this small town.”

This led him to attend Middle Tennessee State University where he studied graphic design and dark room photography.After graduating, Warren began to work for Country Music Television. He later secured an internship with established photographer, Annie Leibovitz, in New York City.

While assisting on Vanity Fair and Vogue shoots, Warren witnessed the amount of work single images require. These opportunities allowed him to collaborate with Taylor Swift and Jack White and inspired his personal work.

Throughout the lecture, Warren shared his own images, ranging from model test shoots to whimsical fantasy scenes. He stressed the importance of becoming crafty with supplies when the budget is small.

“Sometimes, it’s about the idea,” said Warren. “If the idea is there, the images can be strong.”

Katie Franklin, a senior studying studio art (2D), cited a passion for photography as her motivation to attend.

“It was a big inspiration to me,” said Franklin. “His work really spoke to me, and I’m interested to learn more about him.”

Currently, Warren resides in Nashville and practices photography full time. Though this includes jobs that do not necessarily require creativity, he designates time for his own productions.

“Doing personal work is your own opportunity to show what’s in your head and that you can execute it, “ Warren said.

Warren frequently honors his small hometown by using its scenery as sets; however, he expressed a desire to relocate to New York City for further photography opportunities. As he continues to create and dream, he revealed, “I just want to make art.”

Warren’s work can be viewed here.

Edited by Jessica Carr

The Man Behind the Lens: Life of an Amateur Photographer

Being a photographer is more than taking pictures. For Justin Ruffin, he enjoys capturing the moments of his models. Ruffin was drawn to photography by his grandfather, who was a professional photographer. While Ruffin is passionate about photography, he surprisingly doesn’t aspire to be a professional photographer.


 Edited by Jennifer Brake

Great Smoky Mountain database continues to grow with panoramic photos

Since November, the Database of the Smokies has become a source for both scholars and people with casual interest in the area to find information on the Great Smoky Mountains as well as submit findings of their own to make this a primary source for information on the mountain range.

Now the Great Smoky Mountain Regional Collections – the main site over the database – has another addition to make the database even more special: digital collection of Elgin P. Kintner’s panorama photographs of the mountain range.

Kintner, a physician from Maryville, Tenn., often hiked the Great Smoky Mountains and caught many images of them with his camera. After his death in 2008, his daughter, Beccie King, brought the images to the Collections with the promise that they would be of value to this database.

Anne Bridges, co-director of UT’s Great Smoky Mountain Regional Project, described the photos as unique. In the 1960s and 1970s, Kintner would go on top of the fire towers and take still photos. Members of the project have stitched those photographs together in order to make the panoramas.

“The technology didn’t exist [then] to stitch them together, so we saw them on a foam board where he just pasted them together to make overlapping images so he could see them,” Bridges said.

The project has since digitized most of the images as well as added metadata, or catalog records, to some of the images to give information to the one of a kind photographs.

Bridges said she believes what makes Kinter’s images so unique is the fact that there just aren’t many panorama-type photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains form the time period they were taken.

“Some of the photos are more important now because [Kintner] stood on top of fire towers that no longer exist now,” Bridges said.

In addition to acquiring the Kintner photographs, the project has also added many full text items and up to 3,000 records thanks to crowd sourcing and other scholars working in the area.