BOONE, NC — Daniel Gajda ’20 understands how rewarding it is to get paid to do what you love — the Appalachian State University graduate turned his passion into a career working as a professional freelance photographer. He had the opportunity to put his skills into practice last summer, photographing the 2020 Sport Climbing Olympics, held in Tokyo in 2021 due to COVID-19.
Gajda, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Commercial Photography from App State, specializes in rock climbing photography.
“When my friend took me to the climbing wall, I was immediately hooked, and I’ve been climbing for five years now,” he said. “It cemented my mindset to become a commercial photographer and to make rock climbing a big part of my career.”
Photographing the Olympics was a “to-do list item” for Gajda, he said – “it happened a lot sooner than I would have imagined”. After a 15-hour flight from the United States to Japan, he had 24 hours to set up his equipment and learn the layout of the site.
Since the Olympics, Gajda has continued to shoot climbing competitions and aims to pursue more commercial work, particularly with companies in the outdoor industry. He attributes his commercial photography degree to his success.
“App State’s program focuses on the business side of photography, which is huge,” he said.
Discover your passion at App State
Despite her interest in photography, Gajda did not consider it a potential career path until college.
After a semester majoring in Recreation Management at East Carolina University, he changed his major to Commercial Photography and transferred to App State.
“I love Boone, and there are lots of climbing and outdoor recreation opportunities here,” said Gajda, who was a member of the university’s climbing team.
Chip Williams, associate professor of commercial photography at App State, said Gajda had a natural talent and drive as a student.
“Daniel’s focus on the specific work he wanted to create and his career goals, even as a student, was remarkable. He knew which photo and media markets he wanted to work in and he was already shooting at a very high level for national and international climbing competitions in his senior year. It was obvious to me that he was going to achieve his career goals quickly with his focus and vision,” Williams said.
As the world begins to emerge from the COVID pandemic, Gajda is diving back into photography for the sport he loves and has taken his freelance photography business to Salt Lake City.
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About the Art Department
One of seven departments in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Appalachian State University’s Department of Art prepares students to explore art, identity, expression, and creative problem solving while challenging them to go beyond their previous limitations by discovering new connections with Culture. The department offers degrees in Art and Visual Culture, Art Education, Graphic Design, Studio Art, Commercial Photography, and Graphic Communications Management, with minors in Art History, Studio Art, Commercial Photography, and Graphic Arts and Technology imagery. Learn more at http://www.art.appstate.edu.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences, and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has over 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theater and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the Southeast’s premier public undergraduate institution, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead meaningful lives as global citizens who understand and take responsibility for creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to gain and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and purpose, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system. Appalachia is home to nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-faculty ratio, and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.