Panthers team photographer blazes historic path

CHARLOTTE — Chanelle Smith-Walker has traveled an unconventional path on the road to becoming the Carolina Panthers team photographer.

The former Elon student-athlete began her career as a graphic designer, claiming history as the first black creative director in the SEC and first black designer in the college football playoffs.

She would often take photos to include in her designs, though was never professionally trained in photography.

“Social media helped my career take off from a design standpoint,” she said.

Her posts eventually drew the attention of the previous Panthers team photographer, who shared his admiration for her work, then encouraged her to apply for the job upon his departure.

“When he first reached out I was terrified,” Smith-Walker said.

“I really didn’t think I was qualified to be in that position, but I knew I was really passionate about photography.”

Smith-Walker is currently one of two black women who hold the role of team photographer in the NFL.

“Representation is something that’s been extremely passionate for me even outside of this organization,” she said.

“I don’t go out there just for myself.  I go out there for all the other women that didn’t have a chance or other women that want to get into the space. This is so much bigger than just me.”

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