For most photographers, publishing work in the New York Times and the Washington Post would represent the pinnacle of success.
But for UNC Greensboro alumna Alycee Byrd ’19, it’s just the beginning.
In recent months, Byrd’s photography has been featured in a variety of national and international publications. It started in the summer, when Men’s Health reached out to her to photograph an activist in Charlotte who was being featured in a story on prominent 20-somethings.
Then came an assignment for the Washington Post for an article on Black voters. The New York Times reached out to Byrd in October for a story on Halloween. Byrd has also published in L’Officiel Belgium, Creators Mag, Mordant Magazine, and LUCY’S Magazine this year, and recently worked with Eddie Bauer for its One Outside Program.
“To be in these kinds of publications has been a dream come true. It’s been a blessing for me. It’s something that I never expected to happen, especially so quickly,” she says.
Byrd has been behind the camera since high school. For the first few years, she would often borrow friends’ cameras, first to take photos for her Tumblr page, and later, as she grew as a photographer and artist, to work on conceptual fine art and self-portraits.
She bought her first professional camera at age 17. At UNCG, the marketing major started to focus on fashion photography, shooting the annual UNCG Threads fashion show, an experience that allowed her to make important connections and become part of the artistic community in Greensboro. She organized photo shoots with models, many of them fellow UNCG students, on the weekends.
She also interned with University Communications, the marketing and communications office on campus, for all four years as a student. She started in the photography department, working under photographer Martin W. Kane, and later transitioned to the social media team.
After graduation, she landed a full-time job as a photo editor at Pace Communications, a marketing agency in Greensboro where she still works. But on the weekends, she’s continued to grow her freelance photography business.
In March, she saw everything come to a standstill due to the pandemic. But slowly, the shoots started to return, and her weekends filled back up with work. One big assignment led to another, and soon her goal of being published in a big-time, national publication was being realized month after month.
The New York Times shoot was one of the most challenging. While much of her work is focused on portraiture and fashion photography, this shoot forced her to flex her photojournalist muscles and tell a story through her photography. Thankfully, she was able to fall back on some of her UNCG training.
“Martin Kane taught me a lot about photojournalism. I don’t think I would have been able to do that shoot without my internship experience.”
She also credits UNCG for helping her develop a strong work ethic, and for offering support and encouragement along the way.
“I was taking classes and working on photography on top of my classwork. The faculty didn’t know I had a side hustle, but they were always really supportive and understanding,” she says. “And my roommates and friends from UNCG have been my number one supporters, even when I had crazy ideas and set up shoots in our suite.”
Byrd is part of Diversify Photo’s #HireBlackPhotographers database, which connects photo editors and art directors to Black photographers across the country and around the world. Being a part of this list, she says, has helped bring visibility to her work.
“When I first started in photography, it was hard to find where I was going to fit as a Black woman,” she says. “It’s been great to see so many Black photographers getting more opportunities. Growing up, I didn’t see as many people like me working in photography and getting national and international recognition. Now, people are looking to us more and actually respecting our work. It’s been really uplifting and has been motivation for me to keep doing what I’m doing.”
She adds, “People are looking more to us to tell our stories. I’m excited that people are recognizing that stories should be told from the perspective of people who understand them, and they’re seeing these stories through our lenses.”
So what’s next for Byrd?
Right now, she’s enjoying her work at Pace and the community she’s built in Greensboro. With so much work in North Carolina, she doesn’t feel the need to move to a larger city anytime soon.
Long term, her dream is to open her own photography studio and work full-time as a freelance photographer.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own space dedicated to me creating whatever I want to create,” she says. “I would love to be fully freelance, shooting fashion photography, editorial spreads for magazines, and campaigns for brands. These are things I’ve wanted to do since the beginning. And I would love to make more connections with local creatives. Our area is so lively with creative people.”
Learn more about Byrd and her work at www.alyceebyrd.com.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography of Byrd by Martin W. Kane, University Communications