While the rest of us are noshing on chips and dip watching football from the comfort of our living rooms this Sunday, Catawba Valley Community College alumnus Seth Mabry will be snapping action shots of the Panthers and Broncos with multiple cameras—live and in person in California—at Super Bowl 50.
“You’ve heard the cliché, ‘this is a dream come true,’ but this truly is a dream I have had since I first decided that I wanted to be a sports photographer,” said Mabry, whose day job is editor and publisher of the Newton, N.C., Observer News Enterprise.
“I’m glad to represent CVCC and all that Joe Young has taught me,” Mabry added.
CVCC gave Mabry the opportunity to pursue not just one, but two careers. In high school, he weighed following either the example of his talented woodworking grandfather or his dreams of becoming a sports photographer.
“Back then, the idea of being a sports photographer was like being an astronaut or major league baseball player,” Mabry reflected. So, initially, the Albemarle, N.C., native moved in the direction of what appeared to be the more achievable career path.
After graduating with an associate degree in CVCC’s Furniture Production Technology, he pursued a management career with an area furniture company. His first career was satisfying but short-lived due to international outsourcing in the furniture industry in the mid-2000s.
When the plant where Mabry worked closed, he could not forget the pivotal moment that sparked his fascination with sports photography. As a teenager, he’d picked up a baseball card of Cal Ripkin, Jr. But this was no typical player action shot. Ripkin was photographed in the dugout with a picturesque background. He wondered, how had the person behind the camera captured such a powerful shot? And how could he learn to do the same?
Rather than looking for another job in the same industry, Mabry turned his layoff into an opportunity to pursue his first love: photography. He enrolled in CVCC’s Photographic Technology associate degree and has been pursuing his dreams since graduating in 2007. His resume includes photography positions with the Lenoir News Topic, Lincoln Times-News and Goldsboro News-Argus.
He’s won his share of awards, but doesn’t seem to keep track of when and where. The most memorable ones to date are his N.C. Press Association Award in 2011 and being named the 2011 Hugh Morton Photographer of the Year. His photos have been highlighting the pages of Catawba County newspapers and publications since 2008.
“I get to do what I enjoy and I’m lucky enough to get a paycheck for it,” he said.
This year, he’s lucky enough to photograph Super Bowl 50. With a little more luck, at the Super Bowl he’s hoping to meet the creator of that Cal Ripkin Jr. image: Walter Iooss. He’s the legendary photographer of professional athletes like Michael Jordan and many of the bathing beauties that grace the covers of Sports Illustrated.
Turns out the odds of becoming a professional sports photographer are better than Mabry ever imagined.