Webster film student Hailey Sherman leaves medicine for media

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A singer spotlit in a fleeting moment of ecstasy, backdropped by a pitch-black stage. If you’ve walked the halls of Sverdrup over the past two months, there is a good chance you’ve seen the photo.

Singer-songwriter Tucker Pillsbury, known professionally under his stage name Role Model, performed at The Pageant in 2022. Contributed photo from Hailey Sherman.

Webster film student Hailey Sherman took the shot of internationally touring singer-songwriter Role Model with less than a year of concert photography experience. 

The Kooyumjian Gallery in Sverdrup Building used Sherman’s image to advertise their exhibit featuring faculty and undergraduate work. Interim Gallery Director Kristina Richards made the final decision to use Sherman’s picture, which can be found on bulletin boards, TVs and postcards around Sverdrup and the Webster Groves area.

“I wanted an image that was electric, and her image is electric,” Richards said. “Her image projects what I want people to think about the exhibit: That it’s fresh, it’s current, it’s alive, it’s exciting, and there is a dynamic dialogue going on.” 

20-year-old Sherman won second at the gallery with her capture. Just three years ago, the then-high school senior had a detailed plan for a career in the medical field.

“I could tell you what my whole life was going to look like,” Sherman said. “I could have said, “‘I’m going to college, I’m going to medical school, I’m going to be a doctor at this hospital.’ I could’ve written out my whole life.” 

She considers a sleepaway summer camp in Woodward, Pennsylvania to be a pivotal factor in her dramatic career adjustment. Woodward Camp offers training for several lifestyle and action sports, like parkour and skateboarding, and a digital media studio for campers interested in photo and video. Sherman discovered the camp through their Youtube show “Camp Woodward,” on their channel, which is nearing 600,000 subscribers.

“I had no clue how large of an impact that that camp and the people I met there would have on my life,” Sherman said. “It’s scary to think that if I didn’t go to that camp … I always wonder where I would be right now, like, would I be in medical school?”

Sherman grew up with a camera in her hands. Her first camera, a small purple and white point-and-shoot, was given to her as a child. It wasn’t until 2019 during Camp Woodward’s photography camp, her third summer there, that the camera bug bit.

It was day one of camp; Sherman found herself in the middle of a meeting for the video campers and was inspired to try something different.

The meeting ended and Sherman quickly hunted down a sheet of paper and an ink pen. 

“I went to this beautiful scenic mountain view … and I started storyboarding a whole film,” Sherman said. This was a first for the photography camper who had never made a film or touched editing equipment.

The result was “Time Kills,” a film that took nearly 100 hours of effort over the course of

Hailey Sherman with professional filmmakers JP De Lespinois (left) and Ty Evans (right).
Contributed photo from Hailey Sherman.

the week. When Sherman showed it to the video camp’s two instructors and professional filmmakers JP De Lespinois and Ty Evans, they encouraged her to move into the film camp. 

“Time Kills” won the camp’s film festival at the end of the week, electing her “Camper of the Week” by those instructors, whom she now considers her mentors. 

“[The “Camper of the Week” award] is typically a difficult choice to make, as the talent of this younger generation is simply remarkable,” De Lespinois said. “Both Ty and I knew she had what it takes to be in the film industry, and it was a no-brainer. It had to be Hailey.”

Sherman had reached a turning point: Continue on the medical track toward pediatric oncology, or pivot into the field of media.  

“At this point, my whole life everyone [had] thought I was going to be a doctor, and I remember just not being sure what to do,” Sherman said. “One of the hardest decisions I had to make was coming to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue film and photography.” 

Growing up, Sherman said she would have described herself as an adrenaline junkie, trying new things like skateboarding and rock climbing. Now, she said that the risks she takes are bold career jumps, such as her transition into concert photography.

A long-time lover of music, she had a special interest in the life of touring concert photographers. She watched behind-the-scenes YouTube videos of tours and followed concert photographers on social media. 

Hailey Sherman keeps a list of artists she has photographed in her phone’s notes app. “I definitely like photographing artists that I’m a big fan of because if I know their music I am more excited [and] I think you can see that in my photos,” Sherman said.
Contributed photo from Hailey Sherman.
“[Touring concert photographers] got to travel the world and be doing what they loved, and be in this insanely energetic stadium with thousands of fans screaming and cheering. Everything about that seemed amazing to me,” Sherman said. “I think at a certain point I realized the only place where I truly forgot about everything I had to do in the world was at a concert.”

Sherman started off photographing a local band’s concerts and festivals. On a whim, she reached out to Role Model’s touring manager over Instagram for a job photographing Role Model’s show at Lollapalooza. In what Sherman described as the best-case scenario, she was instead offered a position photographing his St. Louis show at The Pageant on June 25, 2022. 

It was at this show that she took the photo chosen to be used for advertising the Kooyumjian Gallery exhibit. 

Since taking that shot, Sherman has photographed shows for professional touring artists Panic! At the Disco, Ross Lynch with The Driver Era, Huddy, Conan Gray, Oliver Tree and more. 

“When I leave a concert, it is like the biggest natural high I could ever have,” Sherman said. “With my concert photos, my goal is to capture a concert so that the viewer can feel the energy through my photos. I try to capture moments so other people get to experience what I got to experience.”

Her intentions with creating art have not strayed far from her original yearning to help people in the medical field. Now, she uses documentary filmmaking and photography to help people. 

“With medicine, I always wanted to help people feel better physically, but I guess I hope with my photos and films that I can either change someone’s perspective on someone and make them understand other people better or make them laugh,” Sherman said.

It took a summer camp in Pennsylvania for Sherman to realize her true passion for camerawork. Now, Sherman is working as the lead photographer and videographer for three companies—including St. Louis Gram and STL Bucket List, both boasting more than 100,000 followers on Instagram. 

“If I wanted to foreshadow that I was going into film [and photo], as a kid, whenever I was in the car and we were just driving, I would see little movie scenes as I was driving, but I never thought much of it, I would just imagine the music and the scene,” Sherman said. I remember thinking when I was at [Camp] Woodward making that film, ‘maybe it has been this all along.’”

 

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