Archdiocese Local

Longtime Leaven freelancer joins the archdiocesan communications department

On Feb. 19, Jay Soldner became a full-time photographer and videographer for the archdiocesan communications department. Soldner is a longtime Leaven freelance photographer. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As he drives across northeast Kansas en route to a photography assignment, Jay Soldner doesn’t tune in to the radio or pass the time with a podcast.

“On the way there, I pray for grace,” he said.

“When I get to an assignment,” said Soldner, “unless it’s something unfolding right in front of me, I usually get there and sit for a little bit and take it all in until I can get a sense of what needs to be captured.”

Soldner has captured events of all kinds as a freelance photographer for The Leaven for the past eight years.

On Feb. 19, he became a full-time photographer and videographer for the archdiocesan communications department.

In this role, Soldner will continue photographing for The Leaven. He’ll also be responsible for taking photos and videos for the archdiocesan website, social media, campaigns and events.

“The office of communications serves as the bridge between the archdiocese and parishes,” said Marissa Easter, director of communications.

“Jay’s role is vital in being able to tell the visual story of all the wonderful and inspiring things happening within our church,” she added.

Jay Soldner sets up a video camera to livestream the Chrism Mass at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Soldner, his wife Thuy and their sons — Alexander, 14, and Andrew, 11 — are parishioners at Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence.

Adventurous at heart, he enjoys hiking, skiing and playing golf.

His agility has been an asset to his work for The Leaven, which often requires him to contort his body to capture the best angle or weave quietly through a packed church.

“It’s all fun for me because it’s always new and challenging trying to get something that’s not mundane,” said Soldner.

He aims to capture “something that tells the story or evokes emotion or has the reader and viewer think a little more deeply about it.”

Some of his favorite assignments for The Leaven have been photographing Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s visits with inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility and consecrations to religious life.

“The juxtaposition of those extremes is just something that doesn’t happen in any other job,” said Soldner.

Soldner has traveled to nearly every parish and school in the archdiocese.

“They all have their own personality,” he said. “And so, that’s been really cool to experience.”

In his role as a photographer for The Leaven and now the archdiocesan communications department, Jay Soldner travels around the archdiocese to capture various events. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

His artistic interest began when he was a child looking at National Geographic and Sports Illustrated magazines.

“I never really read much of the articles,” said Soldner. “I just found myself captivated by photography.”

He initially dreamed of becoming a photographer for an NFL team. In college, he discovered another inspiration: Robert Frank and his book “The Americans.”

“The photos in that book just spoke to me on a deep level,” he said, “and I felt really connected to it.”

Now as a professional photographer himself, Soldner is grateful.

“To be able to have the opportunity to do that for work is amazing,” he said. “But then to couple that with my faith is really fantastic.”

His zeal is clear to Easter.

“When you speak with Jay about his role, his face lights up,” she said, “and you can see it means so much more to him than just being a job.

“This passion carries over into the end product of his work. His photos and videos are not only excellent in quality, but he has a special eye and is able to capture unique moments.”

Easter believes Soldner’s work is a critical part of the archdiocesan mission.

“Having strong photography and engaging videos are essential in being able to engage our audiences,” she said. “We are enhancing all of our communications strategies, and Jay plays a vital role in this.”

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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