Picture this: you get a phone call from your boss inviting you on a trip to Antarctica, where you, a photographer, writer, and videographer, will have the opportunity of a lifetime. Getting to travel to Antarctica is just one of the many amazing things Illinois State University alumni, Michael Durr, has had the chance to do since he graduated in 2004.
While Durr was at Illinois State, he was involved in Student Television Workshop, TV-10, The Vidette, and was even a RA (Resident Assistant) in Colby Hall for two years.
“I went through the program within the School of COM when it was going through a time of transition. New majors were being made, which at times was the wild west of figuring things out on your own. I can confidently say that entering into the School of COM gave me the opportunity to learn how to quickly adapt to new situations, use my problem-solving skills and to take a second to figure things out if I was struggling,” Durr said. “Doing all of this has helped shape me today, and now all of those skills that were somewhat new to me in college, are just a part of who I am today.”
Durr majored in mass communication with an emphasis on visual communication. This set him up for success within his career because not only did Durr make lifelong friends who have helped him in his career, but he also has “given back” to Illinois State. Having spoken at several alumni events on ISU’s campus, Durr loves to spread knowledge gained through his own professional experiences.
After Durr graduated in 2004, he began working in Central Illinois at UPN59 in Peoria, Ill., as a promotion producer. In the following months, Durr was laid off after UPN59 was absorbed by a larger television station in the area. This all happened in less than a year, giving Durr time to figure out what his next step was going to be. “Being laid off at my first job was a blessing in disguise because I ended up reaching out to one of my old classmates from ISU, who helped me secure a job in Champaign at a larger TV station,” Durr said.
After working in Champaign for a year and a half, Durr moved to Chicago for a new opportunity, which was always his goal after graduation. He went on to work at CLTV. Here, Durr did long-form editing of a variety of television programs. After six months, Durr received another great opportunity.
After six months of working at CLTV station, Durr started a new position at a marketing agency in Chicago called The Marketing Store. “After receiving this opportunity at The Marketing Store, I was so grateful. Working for this agency was exactly what I wanted to do next in my career, so I accepted the job offer,” Durr said. “I worked there for five years, and I learned so much. At The Marketing Store, we worked for companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. I also traveled all over the country for different events.”
All while navigating everything on his plate, Durr continued to express his passion for photography and video by capturing weddings and working on his craft in the field outside of his day job.
“After my five years at The Marketing Store, I hit a ceiling and felt maxed out. I was ready to move on and continue to grow,” Durr said. He accepted a position at Maddock Douglas, which is an innovation agency in Chicago. At Maddock Douglas, Durr started an internal photography/video practice for the agency. He worked there for three years and was able to express his creativity like he never had before.
After three years at Maddock Douglas, Durr got the chance to work in the heart of the city of Chicago for FAS Chicago, which was an ad agency whose primary client was Case Construction. He worked there for three years, photographing and creating videos that showcased heavy machinery.
“After finding out my wife and I were having a son, we debated if we still wanted to live in Chicago or if we wanted to go to the suburbs. We ended up not picking either and, instead, moved to Indianapolis. My wife is from here, and all her family is here. So we knew it would still have a big-city feel, but we would know be surrounded by family as well.
Once Durr and his wife moved to Indianapolis, he started his own business, called Michael Durr Photo/Video. Once his business was created, Durr began doing a lot of freelance work, which snowballed into things he could never imagine.
“When we moved to Indianapolis and I started freelancing, I met someone who ran a photography website called PhotoPXL.com. He turned out to be exactly who I needed to meet. He ran his own photography workshops all around the world, educating people from every area on his craft,” Durr said.
After a few years of working with him, Durr was asked to come along on a trip to Antarctica, where he was exposed to some of the world’s most beautiful sights and got to express his passion for photography and video in a way he never had done before.
In addition to working for the photography website, Durr also freelanced for a network of hyper-local magazine publications called the Towne Post Network. He photographed and even wrote some stories for Broad Ripple Magazine, which is a publication that spotlights the area in which he and his family live.
“At Broad Ripple Magazine, I started off as a freelance photographer. I did that for two years, and then everything changed. I was offered the publisher position for the magazine, and my wife was going to be working right alongside me. This has all been a journey, and I am so happy to be doing what I love, all while being surrounded by likeminded, passionate people,” Durr said.
Broad Ripple Magazine had its first issue in March 2021 under Durr’s leadership as its publisher. “One of my favorite parts about working at The Vidette at ISU was seeing my work in print. I would see my name and get this unexplainable feeling. Now, as publisher for Broad Ripple Magazine, I get to feel that same feeling, but now I have a whole new team standing alongside me,” Durr said. We have a three-year old and one-year old son, so we may have bitten off a little more than we can chew, but I know we will be simply fine.”
Check out Broad Ripple Magazine to support a fellow creative that got his start at ISU’s School of Communication. Michael Durr’s story is a great example of never being afraid of taking new opportunities because you never know what will come out of them. Even when things got tough, Durr kept pushing, and now he’s been rewarded by holding the publisher title at Broad Ripple Magazine.
Editor’s note: Revisions were made in this story to correct the names of Mr. Durr’s places of employment and certain details about his career-related work experiences.