Saying goodbye to the man behind the camera

Don Burlinson became Valencia’s photographer in 1988, when photographs were still developed in the college darkroom. Over the next 27 years, he ushered in the era of digital photography and later, social media, where fans and followers showed an unlimited appetite for his engaging photos. Don retires in December from the Public Affairs and Marketing department.

In his nearly three decades working for Valencia, Don snapped away at campus events and people—capturing changing dress habits and educational trends—to chronicle the college’s history and the experiences of its students.  He recalled one of his favorite shoots. “A Valencia grad had been given a job as a maintenance supervisor at Universal Studios and he was being featured in a story in the credit schedule publication,” he said. “I loved going backstage there and seeing how everything worked. That was when the Back to the Future ride was new, and we were able to look down on all the Deloreans. It was a blast.”


Don captured the angst of the Valencia students who performed in “Division: The Trayvon/Jordan Project” in 2015.

Don perched on a hydraulic lift to shoot a grant human peace sign on the East campus.

Don (left) flew in a small plane above Orlando to shoot Valencia’s growing campuses in 1995.

Don spoke about expectations that aspiring photographers have. “One of the biggest challenges in being a professional is that clients will come to you with a photograph from a major ad campaign where the shoot alone costs tens of thousands of dollars or more,” he noted.  “They’ll want you to replicate it, and there’s no way you can unless you have that kind of budget. So, you need to learn to work with the resources that are available to you and make the most of them. That’s where your creativity comes in.”


Each fall, Don captured images of students in long lines for registration.

I want to express my creativity in some way other than photography. Sculpture, ceramics, pottery… I’ve never had time, but now I will!”

Don went to document the makeup for the theater department’s production of “Bat Boy.”

A University of Florida graduate, Don was fascinated by three-dimensional forms of expression. He said that’s an area he hopes to explore in his retirement. “I want to express my creativity in some way other than photography. Sculpture, ceramics, pottery…I’ve never had time, but now I will!”

Don will be best remembered for his talent for telling a story visually and for readily sharing a laugh with his colleagues.

Farewell, Don. Thank you for sharing your gift for so long. We wish you all the best.

When Valencia took over the reins of the Central Florida Fire Academy, Don shot the trainees in the “burn building.”

Valencia student Vedda Kanglora posed with a violin that Valencia students created on a 3-D printer.