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Yakima Send Off

Real, Relevant, and Right

Tony Bynum; photographer, videographer, environmental activist, father, and Montana-ite; characterizes his work into three simple statements; is it real, is it relevant, and is it right? Living by those standards in today’s world can be hard, but Bynum seems to have found his niche. Whether he is taking photographs of spectacular ‘big sky country’ in his home state of Montana, or capturing the unique perspective behind conservation through hunting, his experience in the outdoor photography field and environmental savvy goes virtually unmatched.

Early on in his schooling, Bynum had no real intention to go to college. He planned to stay in agriculture, a field he knew well and had grown up with. Life had other plans for him however, and after applying to several state colleges, he was proud to announce that he would became the first in his family to attend and graduate from a university. Bynum chose CWU for several reasons, but as a young, fresh-out-of-high school senior, he saw CWU as an opportunity to continue his life-long interests of hunting, fishing, and farming, all while continuing his education. It was the perfect happy-medium between his roots and the new ones he would grow.

“I always felt that it was safe, accessible, inviting, accepting, and that it was a place where I was welcome,” Bynum said. “The whole time I was there, I never felt like anyone was shunned, or discriminated against, or that there were any places I couldn’t go or people I couldn’t talk to.”

Bynum worked at dining services and in the maintenance department for the entire six years he attended school at CWU. By his sophomore year, he entered the Geography and Land Studies major, deciding that this was ultimately where his heart was. He credits his initial interest in his major and draw into the program to two professors, Kenneth Hammond and Morris Uebelacker.

“Part of it [choosing a major] was obviously the subject matter, but the other part was the instructors, who starting in my junior year through graduate school, really became my passion,” Bynum said. “I didn’t feel like I was going to some university [CWU], I felt like I was going to classes with people who cared about me.”

Bynum also had the opportunity to attend graduate school at Central, as one of the second students to receive a Bureau of Reclamation fellowship. Successful in this line of work, Bynum went on to work with Native Americans to help build capacity on Indian land for the next 10 years. This Department of Interior fellowship and graduate school made such a large impact on his life, that he credits CWU for the path he has taken since then.

“Central has been responsible for two of the largest and most impactful experiences of my life,” Bynum said. “The experience and education I received in the Geography and Resource Management department provided me with a tremendous amount of access and experience to real-life issues and education that perfectly suited me for what I wanted to do in my life,” Bynum said. “It also gave me access to real-life experiences and on-the-ground examples of activities that you could expect to be involved in, in the environmental resource field. It was stellar!”

One of Bynum’s major turning points in both his career and his personal life, was when his daughter, Jaida, was born and his subsequent move to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, where he has remained for 14 years. Bynum also decided to put his fifteen years of experience in the professional world of resource management and environmental science, on the backburner and pursue a career as a scientist consultant, working from home part-time, all while raising his daughter. Bynum’s photography career did not kick off until about 10 years later, when he began to photograph the scenery in Montana.

“I travel all over the world for my job and when I come back to the United States, to Montana in particular, I am always excited to be back. My life here is all about capturing images for conservation organizations for commercial clients and for myself, because that is what I like to do now.”

Bynum is now involved in many different environmental organizations, some in Montana, and others all over the U.S. One organization that he holds near and dear to his heart is the Glacier to Medicine Alliance. He serves on the board of directors, with the focus on preventing regions of Montana from oil and gas development. Today, he serves on several boards and continues to advise and help Montana based conservation units. Some of his clients include; Montana Resource Advisory Council, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Montana Back Country and Anglers.

Bynum’s tag line, “real, relevant, and right,” has stood the test of time, both in his personal and professional life. He still asks himself those three questions and abides by those traits; have good character, be real and honest, and to be skilled in follow through. Living those traits, he has grown his business astronomically. He has become a staple in the environmental world, supporting such projects as #OurWild and #BLMWild, which are two initiatives that protect public lands in the U.S. By capturing the beauty of these places, he continues his legacy of conservation in the American West.

Central holds a special place in Bynum’s heart and has guided him through to his accomplished life today. Bynum still believes that getting involved is the best way to learn and he is glad he did that at Central.

“Be a part of something bigger than yourself, participate in your community, talk to people and try to understand where they are coming from, and be a good solid citizen.”

To see Tony Bynum’s work and to learn more about his business, click here.

Story by: Claire Cox, UA Communications

Photos Courtesy of: Tony Bynum Photography

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