Life through the lens: Stephen Nadler '21

Publication Date

Majors: Anthropology and visual arts
Today: Photographer and Watson Fellow

Stephen Nadler took Photography 1 with Professor Martin Benjamin (now emeritus) his sophomore year and never looked back.

“This course in film photography revolutionized the way I perceive the art form. It changed how I viewed everyday photos and images while introducing me to basic concepts such as composition and the use of light,” he said."

I enjoyed the intensive process of physically developing and printing my own images. This quickly became a creative way for me to connect with others around me.”

A lifelong sports fan, Nadler had played soccer in recreational leagues in his Scarsdale, N.Y., hometown until injuries sidelined him. At Union, he jumped at the opportunity to express his love of sports through a camera lens. He began covering athletic teams in practice and competition. Candid student life moments also caught his eye, and many of his images were featured widely on the College’s social media channels.

“Sports are unique to photograph because the action moves at a fast pace,” he said. “You have to be incredibly focused on the action while also looking for other moments that are a bit more unexpected.”

After Union, Nadler experienced a global outlook on his favorite sport as the recipient of a prestigious Watson Fellowship. Watson Fellows are graduating seniors from top American colleges and universities who receive a generous stipend to cover a year of “purposeful, independent exploration” outside the U.S.

Nadler's project was titled, “Photographing Soccer: Community and Identity Across The World,” and cameras in hand, he traveled to Thailand, Senegal, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Qatar. In each country, he worked with photographers, photojournalists, non-profit organizations and researchers.

“I spent 12 months immersed in various soccer communities to learn, document and share the social constructs, stories and experiences that exemplify soccer’s role in unifying fans and players and its impact on national identity,” he said.

Toward the end of his project, he collaborated with the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar “to cover some of the biggest soccer matches on the planet.

“The emotion that players express is unlike any other sporting event on earth,” he said. “From the tears to the massive celebrations, the raw passion that players have for their countries is special and makes for terrific photos.”

With his extraordinary Watson year and World Cup assignment officially ended, Nadler continues to pursue sports photography while exploring opportunities within soccer player management and representation.

“Union exposed me to a new kind of creative thinking where I learned to visualize and create opportunities. Whether founding a club, a new job position on campus or applying for the Watson, Union taught me that anything is achievable as long as you prepare yourself and are dedicated to the best of your abilities.”

Visit @photoxsn to see Stephen Nadler’s Instagram photos of the World Cup.