A book with photography being critical to its success, brings about a need for creative handiwork on the part of the artist behind the lens. The University of Georgia Press with its release of “How Bout Them Dawgs, the inside story of Georgia Football’s 2021 National Championship Season,” partnered with Cassie Wright whose lens helped illuminate the inside story, co-authored by Coach Kirby Smart.
Cassie grew up in the hills of North Georgia with a love of animals and the outdoors which placed her near the Chattahoochee River. Swimming in what is perhaps Georgia’s most romantic river—certainly if you recite the words of Georgia’s one-time poet laureate, Sidney Lanier—often made her day growing up.
She has often drawn inspiration from the river, forever appreciating the immortal words of Georgia’s native poet.
Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall.
White County will always be home no matter where she gets her mail—even if she were to live out one of her fantasies which is to volunteer at a panda sanctuary in China.
Her bucket list would be to spend time with her camera and baby animals. An enduring highlight in her life was when she released a baby loggerhead turtle at Little Saint Simons Island. “With nature,” she says, “it is about catching intimate details and capture the hidden beauty.” She adds, “I get a spiritual connection when I am out by myself, immersed into nature.”
Cassie has always loved animals. In her formative years, she was constantly amongst chickens, cats, and dogs. She fed apples to the young calves on her family property. A gripping emotional moment in her life comes about when she learns of an animal in distress which is why her dog, Rocky, now lives “the life of Riley.” She assumes he was hit by a car which left him disabled in his hind quarters. With rehab assistance from the University of Georgia Vet School’s physical therapy program, he became the poster dog for the Madison/Oglethorpe Animal Shelter. “We are inseparable,” she says.
Early on, dating back to her high school years, she developed an interest in art but switched to photography, “a different art form.” Along the way, she became a versatile and creative photographer.
Being connected with the University of Georgia has been great for her in that she has had much opportunity to meet interesting people as she works. She loves sports photography. She has photographed Tiger Woods for Bridgestone in nearby Covington and gets emotionally charged when “football images come alive” in her camera.
For the book about Georgia’s national championship season, published by the UGA Press, she found Airbnb accommodations in Miami and Indianapolis to photograph the Orange Bowl and the national championship game.
“It is a big, beautiful world out there,” she says. “I want to travel and see this big, beautiful world and capture as many images as I can. I want to photograph Europe someday—the people, the history, and the countryside.”
Her sensitiveness with nature is why, for example, she chooses to spend time on Little St. Simons Island. Millions of people flock to St. Simons for the beaches, golf, and the restaurants. That’s nice, she says, but points out, with obvious depression that “they are missing out on the most rewarding of experiences by not spending time on Little St. Simons Island.”
With “How ‘Bout Them Dawgs,” she worked to find defining images of the coaches and players in the ultimate championship game. She was diligent in collecting the essence of Georgia’s victory, capturing the precise moment of exclamation. You can almost hear the guttural exclamations of the fury in the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball and feel the sweat flying off the brows of the combatants.
When ABC’s Wide World of Sports promoted its coverage as capturing the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” that would also describe Cassie’s mission as a photographer.
With her lens documenting the “thrill of victory” in Indianapolis, she teamed with the University of Georgia Press to bring about a handsome book with a lot of fun history along with a coach’s keen insight in the development of a story that reflects an historical moment in UGA sports history.