Gavin Liddell ’20, G’22 always knew he was destined for a life behind the camera. He arrived at the Newhouse School in 2016 as a photography student in the visual communications department. After graduation he continued his education, earning a master’s degree in multimedia, photography and design with a specialization in photojournalism. In his almost six years at Newhouse, Liddell displayed his impressive work in The Daily Orange and The NewsHouse, while wrestling with what type of photojournalist he would become. Eventually, Liddell combined his love for athletics with his passion for photography, deciding to pursue a career in sports photojournalism.
“I came to Syracuse knowing that I wanted to do photography but really not knowing where I wanted to go with it,” he says. “It wasn’t until my junior year that I started to actually take an interest in photographing sports. It slowly progressed to me photographing all of the sports that Syracuse had to offer.”
Liddell went on to capture photographs for many stories including “Grit & Glory,” his most influential and meaningful project. It’s an intimate photo essay documenting Syracuse University’s men’s club ice hockey team, accompanied by broadcast and digital journalism junior Braden Reed’s story. Liddell’s warm yet unflinching photographs portray bloody injuries, exhaustion, camaraderie, disappointments and victories.
“I always called it 20 miles, 20 smiles—that season that I got to spend with the club hockey team is something that I will never forget,” Liddell says. “They let me in and gave me trust and gave me respect, and hopefully I gave them that same feeling. I’ve definitely looked back on that project and cried a few times and have had some emotions.”
Liddell was not the only one moved by his experience with the ice hockey team. Seth Gitner, associate professor in visual communications, commended Liddell on his unwavering commitment and journalism skills.
“Gavin was so dedicated to getting this project right that he spent every waking hour that he could with the team on the road and on campus,” Gitner says. “The guys actually made him an honorary member of the team by giving him a jersey at their end of season banquet. Part of being a good journalist is the ability to build relationships with the people that you cover so that they trust you. Gavin did that and then some.”
Throughout the last few months, Liddell has accumulated numerous awards and honors for “Grit & Glory” including runner-up for Best Photojournalism on a College Website at the EPPY Awards; first place for Photo Slideshow at the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Pacemakers and Individual Awards; an honorable mention for Sports Photo in the ACP Clips & Clicks Contest; two first place honors at the Pinnacle College Media Awards; and an Award of Excellence at the Broadcast Education Association On-Location Creative Awards competition.
All of these accomplishments are remarkable, but Liddell is most proud to be honored as a finalist in the prestigious College Photographer Of the Year (CPoY) competition, in the Still Photography category.
“When I first got to Newhouse I had never heard of the CPoY, and it wasn’t until my junior year that I felt like I had some stuff to toss my hat into the ring for,” he says. “But I didn’t win junior year, I didn’t win senior year, I didn’t win anything the first year of my masters program—and I was never hung up on winning and I loved seeing my peers win—but it was always a goal of mine.”
After graduating in May 2022, Liddell took a job as a seasonal photographer for the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s making the most of it, while acknowledging what it took to get there.
“Take every opportunity that is handed to you and do your best with it,” he says. “I’ve been scared going into every single project that I’ve ever done. But I’ve gone in with a full heart, an open mind, the willingness to just be there to learn and make mistakes and come out on the other side with connections and new experiences. I think that you just need to say yes to every opportunity in Newhouse.”
Alix Berman is a first-year student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.