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The California Aggie Photo Archives: Gems of Student Photojournalism

Deep within the basement of Freeborn Hall, behind the black revolving door concealing The California Aggie darkroom, lay the newspaper’s “photo morgue”–a rich collection of photographs produced over the years by staff, freelance, and news agency photographers. In 2019, through a joint effort with then Editor-in-Chief Emily Stack, these negatives, prints, and data disks came to the UC Davis Library’s Archives and Special Collections department, where they will be preserved in the University Archives and made available for current and future generations of students and researchers.

With no journalism major or minor available at UC Davis, The California Aggie is a critical training ground for students interested in the news media and journalism, including photojournalism. Although the student newspaper dates back to 1915, the photo morgue chronicles the years between about 1980 and 2007, capturing the transition from film-based to digital photography.

The thousands of images in this acquisition are still being arranged and described by the library for future access, but this online exhibit offers a sneak peek at a few of the gems from the collection. The research required to produce this exhibit was made possible by the recent digitization and online publishing of the historical print run of the Aggie (1915-2014), itself made possible through a collaboration between the Aggie and the UC Davis Library. But ultimately this exhibit celebrates the talent and hard work of the student photojournalists who created the 26 images that appear below. Their work adds a critical visual dimension to the Aggie’s rigorous coverage of campus, regional news and events. Enjoy.

Breaking News and Events

Aggie staff photographers are quick on the scene to cover campus news and events, and often travel the region on field assignments. On Sept. 22, 1988, Tom McNeill photographed the effort to bring a 35,000 acre wildfire near Lake Berryessa under control. Included among the photo spread was this image of firefighters taking a well deserved break. This group appears to be from the DeWitt Nelson Youth Conservation Camp firefighting program.

See the photo spread and original story.

Protest in response to Rodney King Verdict. Published on May 1, 1992, this front page photo by Ian Martin accompanying a story by Rachel Wettergreen. The photo caption read: “Students protesting the verdict in the Rodney King police brutality trial, held a moment of silence in remembrance for those who have died in the struggle for human rights”. The Freeborn Plaza rally attracted about 200 people.  One of the students quoted in the story said, “The only difference between what’s happening now and what happened 50 years ago is that now we have it on videotape.”

See the original story.

President Bill Clinton opens the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Mike Muse was on the scene to capture this front page photo that accompanied an article by Julie Dalrymple. On Nov. 15, 1997, President Clinton joined a ceremony in the cold rain to open the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. This photo of Clinton shaking hands shows him wearing a Yolo Basin Wetlands hat. Clinton, on the eve of a tumultuous year leading to his impeachment, praised the project as a successful environmental initiative.

See the original story.

Protesters and counter-protestors debate the War in Afghanistan. On October 18, 2001, five weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, anti-war demonstrators held a rally at the Memorial Union, which also drew pro-war counter-protestors. In this photo by Joe Jaszewski, not used in the print edition, the sign of an anti-war protestor flanks Mike Dugas as he shouts pro-war slogans.

See related coverage in the Aggie.

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Davis stage a rally in front of Memorial Union in protest of Israeli treatment of Palestinians on April 12th, 2002.
Joe Jaszewski

Protester in support of Palestine. This image by Joe Jaszewski appeared on the front page accompanying an article by Fitz Vo on April 15, 2002. The caption read: “A participant in the Muslim Student Association-sponsored rally against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians waves a flag during the protest on the Memorial Union patio Friday afternoon. Several hundred MSA members from across the state, Arizona and Washington attended the demonstration.” Aggies for Israel held an emergency counter-protest.

See the original story.

Pro-Israel rally at San Francisco State. Artistically shot through the translucent flag, this image by Debbie Coleman is an alternative to her photo that appeared on the front page of the Aggie on May 8, 2002. The caption read: “John Rothmann of KGO 810 AM radio speaks during the pro-Israel, anti-hate rally at San Francisco State University’s Malcolm X Plaza on Tuesday. His speech focused on the need to build tolerance and not succumb to violent acts of hate. About 300 pro-Israeli and approximately 75 pro-Palestinian activists gathered for the event, which remained peaceful.”

See the original story.

Features and Investigative Reporting

Beyond breaking news, Aggie reporters and photojournalists hone their skills through investigative reporting and feature writing, often on field assignments outside of Davis. Greg Theisen took this photo of an industrial wine press at Christian Brothers Winery to accompany his own story on the high quality of the 1987 California wine vintage. Published on September 10, 1987, the article highlighted the work of wine maker and UC Davis alumnus Tom Eddy. Rather than the typical, picturesque vineyards, Theisen chose to feature the winery’s giant industrial horizontal wine presses.

See the original story.

Guardian Angels in San Francisco. On April 17, 1990, Aggie writer John April and photojournalist Tom McNeill spent a night with the Guardian Angels in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. This photo, which appeared on the front page on May 1, 1990, shows a “safety patrol” in progress. In his article, April describes the activities of the anti-crime organization, including altercations during street patrols and rushing on a hotel to break up drug use.

See the original story.

California Newt in UC Reserve. This photo by Krysten Kellum, which accompanied a feature by Winnie Ho, reveals the delicate art of nature photography. The caption read: “A California newt searches for prey in the shallows of a stream in Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve in Solano County. Stebbins is one of the University of California’s 34 natural reserves, providing a place for faculty and researchers to gain access to managed, undisturbed natural, ecosystems for long-term research projects and teaching. Published April 16, 2003.

See the original story.

Regional and Campus Coverage

For “local color” stories, Aggie photographers learn to take pictures that tell the proverbial one thousand words, such as this young merchant at the Davis Farmers Market. Laurie Anderson captured this young man resting his eyes at a stand selling produce from Fredericks farm near Winters. The image accompanied an article by Noel K. Wilson about the Davis Farmers Market in a summer highlights issue published September 28, 1987.

See the original article.

Dairy cow. Of course, in Davis, not all photography subjects are human. This image by Wayne Tilcock of a cow peering above the herd at the UC Davis dairy barn was part of a photo spread titled “Davis: A Little Slice of Life,” and appeared in the October 27, 1997 issue.

See original photo spread.

Ring of bikes. Debby Coleman caught this perspective on a crescent of parked bikes from the second level of Wellman Hall. Although not used in the print edition, this was for the lead up to the 10th Annual “Cyclebration” on May 15, 2002, which encouraged bike commuting.

See related story.

Northstar Park dominoes on the Davis Greenbelt. As shot by Rion Sanders, the giant domino sculpture by Eddie Hood truly appears to tower over Northstar Park in North Davis. A similar image from the same shoot accompanied an article by Jessica Mosby, part of a “Local Landmarks” series in the Aggie, appearing on May 30, 2003.

See the related article.

Student Life

Photojournalism in the Aggie is an excellent window into student life, from long-standing traditions to fleeting fads. Frisbees were a big deal in the early 1980s. On June 6, 1981, students flocked to Davis Community Park for the first annual Davis Community Frisbee Festival. The event featured the “Harlem Globetrotters of Ultimate Frisbee,” champion Frisbee dogs, and a “maximum discs aloft” in which participants threw over 1,000 frisbees into the air simultaneously. Tomi Kelley captured the moment before the latter event in this photo, scanned from the negative, which was not used in the newspaper.

See the related original story.

Peer counselors at The House. Tony Novelozo took this photo of student peer counselors to accompany a feature article on The House by Naomi Theodorou, published October 5, 1988. For decades, The House served as an “emotional life preserver in a pool of academic pressure and mayhem”–according to the article.

See the original article.

Picnic Day Fashion Show in the rain. Although it was not used in the print edition, this photo by Aster Tseng catches the fun and dedication of models showing off student-designed fashions during the relentless rain of the 2003 Picnic Day.

See the related article.

Picnic Day Chemistry Magic Show. This photo by Tim Hemesath was featured in a photo spread about Picnic Day on April 14, 2003. The caption read: “A member of the UC Davis Chemistry Club lights up 194 Chemistry with a hydrogen balloon during the Chemistry Magic Show.”

See the original story.


Sports photography is a particularly challenging form of photojournalism, requiring precise timing and a knack for capturing the physical, psychological, and emotional range of the game. This humorous image by an unidentified photographer was not found in paper, but it appears to depict intramural inner tube swim relays, circa 1980. Intramural (IM) meets were usually held between Greek groups or other student organizations, often on Picnic Day. Inner tube water polo, or “Tube Polo,” was popular during this period as well, in addition to nearly 40 other IM sports. At the time, UC Davis claimed nearly 70% student participation in IM sports.

See related intramural sports coverage.

Men’s basketball home game. Mark Washburn caught this moment of high-flying action at a Division II men’s basketball game against Sacramento State. Possibly unpublished, the image is circa 1988.

See related basketball coverage from this period.

Women’s Volleyball. Most volleyball photos appearing in the paper show dramatic spikes or blocks at the net; however, Laurie Anderson caught this quiet moment of camaraderie between players during a match against Eastern Washington, Puget Sound on September 10, 1988. Not found in paper.

See related women’s volleyball coverage.

Women’s Lacrosse. This dramatic photo by Curtis Matthews accompanied a story by Chris Lau published April 28, 2003 covering the women’s lacrosse team’s final home game of the season. The caption read: “Aggie freshman Tiffany Lee struggles with a pursuing St. Mary’s defender.”

See the original story.

Arts and Leisure

Working the entertainment beat requires a deft hand, as the photographer enters a range of social environments and lighting conditions. Tom McNeill demonstrates some creativity with this multiple exposure print of singer Elvis Costello performing at Recreation Hall (now the ARC Pavilion). This image was an alternative to the one used in the paper to accompany the concert review by Tracey Renault published on April 17, 1987.

See the related story.

The Flaming Lips performing at the Coffee House. Andrea Terrenzio captured this shot of the alternative rock group The Flaming Lips to accompanied the concert review article by Elizabeth Kieszkowski published on  October 24, 1989. The venue was the Memorial Union Coffee House, a beloved, intimate campus spot for live music.

See the original story.

Danzantes del Alma dancer during Cultural Celebration Day. This photo by Brian Aalbers appeared on front page along with a short article by David Conner. Danzantes del Alma is a student folklorico dance troupe that performs traditional and contemporary dances from Mexican and Chicanx cultures. The event, held on the Quad on May 1, 1997, featured several cultural and social groups on campus and was sponsored by the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission.

Nexus Modern Dance Collective publicity shot. Many of the photos in the Aggie archives were provided to the paper for publicity or advertising purposes, such as this evocative photo of a dancer posing on a pier. It was taken by photographer, dancer, and UC Davis alumnus Daniel Ng, and accompanied an advertisement and article about the Nexus Modern Dance Collective published on January 28, 1999. The Nexus troupe, dating back to 1978, is not officially affiliated with UC Davis, but is largely composed of UC Davis students.

See the original advertisement and story.

Stephen Hawking lecturing at the Mondavi Center. This photo by Krysten Kallum, accompanying a front page article by Santani Teng, included the caption: “Physicist Stephen Hawking presents his lecture, titled ‘Brane New World,’ in the Mondavi Center on March 23. Hawking explained that practical applications of Einstein’s theory of relativity include the Global Positioning System.” Brane theory tries to unify quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity. Published March 31, 2003.

See the original article.