By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer
Tom Barnard isn’t the average Baylor faculty member — when he’s not accomplishing tasks for the Baylor marketing department, he also acts as the owner of the popular Instagram account @tomatbaylor.
Officially, Barnard is the assistant director for student outreach in the Department of Student Learning and Engagement. Occasionally, he writes the What’s New BU emails, runs the Facebook groups for incoming Baylor classes and helps with graphics and photography for student programs and activities.
Along with Barnard’s on-campus duties, he’s known as the face behind @tomatbaylor, his public Instagram account with over 2,700 followers where he captures photographs of all things Baylor related, including the campus, student events and sports games.
“When I started work at Baylor, I began posting so much on my personal account about the school that I had some relatives that were getting tired of it,” Barnard said. “I have a handful of other relatives and close friends that are all Baylor alumni who wanted to see my stuff, so I decided to start another account just dedicated to Baylor.”
Barnard has a passion for photography and used to work at a smaller university as a creative director involved in social media and taking pictures. He sees his Instagram account as an outlet for expressing creativity outside of his campus job.
“I was a creative director and one of three marketing people for the whole university, so all social media and photography was mine — I had a lot more creative outlets than I have here,” Barnard said. “I would much rather be at Baylor though — its more dynamic and fun. I haven’t had a real specific photographic creative outlet here, so my account has turned into a place that allows me to leave my desk and do something more creative and interesting.”
Barnard’s account has generated considerable popularity, with many posts hitting 500 to 600 likes. He’s not surprised by the support; however, he believes the success is a reflection of the Baylor community’s willingness to support each other.
“I haven’t been surprised by the support — it’s one of the things I love about Baylor,” Barnard said. “If nothing else shows through my account, it’s that I have a passion for photography and this university, and the thing I love most about Baylor is the people. You consistently hear from touring prospective students that the people at Baylor are so nice. Kindness is so rare these days, and Baylor has so much of it.”
Barnard doesn’t have to attend any events for his position, but he said he genuinely loves supporting all that the university and student body put on and capturing events in the moment.
“I’m not required to attend any events — everything I’m doing to get the shots is because I want to be there because it’s fun, and the energy is good,” Barnard said. “Unless it’s noted in the comments under a post, everything is iPhone shot. I don’t like the long process of transferring photos to a computer and editing. I like the immediacy of being in the moment — there’s power in social media when it’s not a delayed post.”
Barnard attends many on-campus events, both traditional events and everyday activities.
“My favorite events to attend are football, partly because the stadium is so beautiful. It’s hard to point your camera anywhere and not get a good picture,” Barnard said. “My favorite thing to shoot, however, is architecture. It’s one of my passions in life —I have to force myself out of not just doing Baylor beauty shots.”
When it comes to favorite campus buildings, Barnard loves Pat Neff as a typical favorite and Tidwell as an off-the-wall pick.
“I keep track of what gets the most likes, and it’s consistently spirit-related events or Pat Neff. There are 20 generations of people that know that building and can relate to it — it’s gorgeous,” Barnard said. “I also like Tidwell — it’s so weird. If you go up to the fourth or fifth floor, there’s nothing there except for four faculty offices that are two stories tall with 20-foot ceilings. There are bookshelves all the way around with giant ladders, so it looks like a Harry Potter professor’s office.”
In terms of other events or places he’s interested in shooting, Barnard has several unique spots he hopes to someday gain access to.
“I want to go down into the steam tunnels — any college that’s older than a certain time has them,” Barnard said. “They used boilers to heat buildings and there are tunnels between buildings on campus. There’s a popular movie called Real Genius where a guy lives in steam tunnels — ever since seeing that movie, I’ve wanted to see them. I want to tour the energy complex too — it’s another weird building, but we make all our own power here, and I think it would be interesting inside.”
Naples, Fla., junior Lauren Mulford appreciates how Barnard captures the Baylor community in an authentic way that reflects what Baylor students see every day.
“What’s great about the account is that the photos are from the perspective of a Baylor faculty member,” Mulford said. “I think they accurately illustrate what it’s like to live a day in the life of someone at Baylor, and the opportunities that the school offers.”
She especially enjoys Barnard’s photos of Baylor traditions, and how they capture the school’s enthusiasm for school spirit and pride.
“My favorite pictures are related to traditions like Dia and Christmas on 5th because they show the unique things that the university does to make the student experience the best it can be,” Mulford said. “He captures very candid moments of students having a blast, which makes our school stand out among others.”
Barnard advises Baylor students to attend as many events as possible and capture significant moments as they happen for future memories.
“Attend as much as possible — the time goes by fast, so grab on to as many Baylor-specific memories as you can,” Barnard said. “Make sure to shoot everything, whether that be your friends or your experiences. 10 or 15 fifteen years from now, you will be very nostalgic about your time here. You want your photo album to go with the stories.”