Psychology graduate finds success in photography

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan


Paul Horsted has a degree from SDSU that he’s never used.

Although Horsted has been successful as a freelance photographer, he studied something different at SDSU. His degree is in psychology, but his passion is photography.

After graduation from Brandon Valley High School in 1979, Horsted came to Brookings to pursue a journalism degree. While a student, he took a job at the Argus Leader as a part-time photographer. His job became more demanding, and after a bad first semester, he decided to drop out of school and work for the Argus Leader full-time.

At that time in his life, Horsted was more interested in working than getting a degree.

“I was so enamored and excited to work for a paper,” he said.

He worked for the Argus Leader for three years, then Frank Klock, his former co-worker and current SDSU photography instructor, urged him to go back to school. He though it was a good idea, but he wasn’t interested in getting a photojournalism degree.

“I got a little burned out of the photojournalist life,” Horsted he said. “It can be quite an emotional experience.”

He began taking various classes to find something that sparked his interest. After taking several psychology courses, he decided to pursue a degree.

“I didn’t have a clear direction,” he said.

Yet he was still involved in photography. He occasionally took pictures for the Collegian and was the co-editor of the Jackrabbit. Taking pictures for yearbook gave him many opportunities to see things he wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

“I felt like I was part of everything,” he said.

College was an all-round good experience for Horsted.

“I found everything I was looking for,” he said. “I really enjoyed my college years, and I’ve always really liked the Brookings environment.”

Horsted learned that he could really do anything once he graduated.

“I didn’t know that I would be where I am 20 years ago when I got out,” he said.

He graduated from SDSU in 1987 and was a freelance photographer in Michigan for eight years. He traveled the state taking pictures for different publications. He later moved to his current home in Custer where he still freelances. He has been published in Life, National Geographic, South Dakota Magazine, USA Today, Reader’s Digest and three to four books.

His most recent project was a book he published with his wife. The book is about General Custer’s journey in the Black Hills called “Exploring with Custer: The 1874 Black Hills Expedition.” Horsted re-photographed some of the places that Custer visited.

“It been a really exciting project in our little world,” Horsted said.

Even though he only comes back to Brookings once and a while, Horsted will always have fond memories of SDSU.

“It was hard to leave once I got that degree,” he said.