From a young age, his destiny has been in front of him: adventure and capturing it in a frame.
Oversized couches scatter the second floor of Castellaw Communication Center. In the spring and fall semesters, students set up shop here between their classes and a buzz fills the hallways. In the summer, though, the buzz disappears. The hallways are empty, the couches lonely.
In early June, I sat on one of those couches waiting for Curtis Callaway, a senior lecturer of journalism, public relations, and new media at Baylor. The linoleum floor and ceramic tile walls of Castellaw make every small thing an echo, especially the stride of Curtis’s boots as I heard him coming up the stairwell. Like these echoes, you are aware when Curtis is there. He is tall, engaging, confident. Usually, he is on campus to teach and he wears a button-up shirt—one of those polyester fishing shirts by Columbia—in neutral colors, blue jeans, and brown loafers. This time, though, he is not teaching, coming into town from his farm for an errand and our interview. He dressed down. An old ballcap, t-shirt with grass clippings on the shoulder, and the scuffed boots show he had been working outside.
“It’s hot out there,” he said, and he smiled the unforced smile of a man living his best life. His smile is famous in the department. In fact, almost everyone I interviewed mentioned it. How wide it is, how genuine it is, and how comfortable it can make his students. It lets them know he is not here to badger or crucify them. I think they are part of the reason he smiles—the energy they give him and the higher purpose he has in leading them.
Callaway teaches photography. He is one of three in the department who does so. Graduating in 1991 from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and working as a professional photographer for two decades, Callaway’s perspective is different from the other two professors, who have spent their lives more in the realm in photojournalism.
“He took me to the next level,” said Corrie Coleman, one of Callaway’s current students. “Because, with him, there is this crazy amount of obsession to detail.”
Rae Jefferson called that level of attention “Callaway caliber.” She said he taught her, “If you want to be good, you have to be precise.”
His method of teaching involves putting more “time and focus into each photo,” rather than “relying on circumstance.” Students in a course with Callaway learn to obsess over details and bring emotion into what they shoot.