By Ryan Clark
NKU Marketing + Communications
Driving south of Indianapolis, my hands gripped the wheel, even though I could barely feel anything through the cold.
Had I really just waited out in the freezing temperatures for two hours to meet my favorite band and get their autographs? Did we really get the picture with all of them? I put one hand on the steering wheel and stuck the other in front of the heater to get the feeling back.
I looked over to my co-pilot Tim Sofranko, who just happens to be the campus photographer for NKU. It was late – well past 2 a.m. – as we headed back home to northern Kentucky. Hours earlier, we’d left for the rock concert with no agenda. But because of me, we ended up waiting out by the band’s bus in 17-degree weather with a small group of fans.
Tim was there for all of it, most of the time taking pictures. Of course, he had to be there because I was his ride. But you got the sense that he lived for these kinds of things.
“So,” he said, turning up the radio, “what do we do when these guys come to Cincinnati? Are we going to that show, too?”
Tim says ... “Obviously a lot of people pay attention to what’s going on on the floor at the time – but it’s a different take on the drama that can unfold at the buzzer.”
I shook my head. “I don’t care,” I said. “It doesn’t matter. It’ll never get better than this.”
But even in the back of my mind, I knew the night’s success wouldn’t keep Tim from going back. It’s the kind of person he is, whether he’s snowboarding, landscaping, or shuffling one of his children to ballgames, he’s in constant motion.
And more often than not, he’s carrying a camera with him.
Tim Sofranko grew up in Melrose, NY, 20 miles away from the state capitol of Albany. He attended the nearby College of Saint Rose (famous for alum Jimmy Fallon) and the State University of New York at New Paltz where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in photography.
“I think one of things that got me interested in art was looking at music album covers as a kid,” said Sofranko, 46. “Then, in college, I just ran across a professor and he just lit my lamp for photography – Tom Santelli at Saint Rose. It was more fine art photography, not journalism, but I eventually came around to journalism because I couldn’t see myself taking a picture and just hanging it on a wall.”
That’s when the adventures began. He worked as a photojournalist and found he liked telling stories. That took him from New York State to California to Guam. He saw the world and he has the images to prove it.
In one story, he documented a rescued woman who’d gotten lost for three nights in the wilderness of southern California. In another, he showed touching scenes from the Cyril Ross Nursery, an orphanage for HIV positive children in Trinidad.
At each stop, he learned more and honed his craft.
“Unbeknownst to me I started learning how to tell stories,” he said. “As I started putting together a portfolio people would say to me, ‘You’re a really good storyteller,’ and I never even thought about it. I’ve come to understand I have a good storytelling quality.”
By 2002, he returned to his home state to become the photographer for Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.
“I took a chance,” he said. “I didn’t know what the job was going to be to start out with, but there was something to being able to observe interesting research, college culture, athletics. There’s some interesting stuff that goes on there.”
Along the way, he continued to freelance for other publications and other colleges, including Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He was published in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and other major titles across the country.
“Commencement is a situation where people are happy, they’re feeling good. But there’s also a sadness to it, of people moving on, parting ways. It’s an emotionally charged situation. There’s always a number of good pictures that come out of that.”