Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Meet some football and some thinkin'

About a week ago, I was digging through some folders, looking for a photo, when I found other photos from an assignment I keep forgetting I shot. I'm not sure why, but it keeps slipping my mind that I shot a high school football playoff game in Jefferson City last November for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Real newspaper. Got paid, got a clip...plus it was sports coverage - my favorite. And, considering it was only the third time I'd photographed football ever, I was pleased with what I got. No real award winners were made that night, but here are a few of my personal favorites:

(If you're in the critiquing mood, #4 vs #5 and why? And image #2 is mostly just a photo of the weather conditions in which I was working.)

So, now for the second part of the title.

I'm in a class this semester that's really making me think (I know, the nerve) about my photography. Buzz words like "passion" and "personal" and "meaningful" are flying. We're on day three of this class and I'm already panicking. Probably because I'm thinking. And not shooting. I tend to do (or not do) these things.

I came to Mizzou to expand on my photo skills, which were firmly and fairly exclusively rooted in sports photography. I've made it a point while here to not shoot sports, to look for stories that in no way are connected to athletics or athletes or physical fitness or...well, you get the idea. And, aside from a wrestling picture (a bad one, at that) in February, some Show-Me-State Games coverage in the late summer (kickball, dodgeball, and geriatric darts - I hardly feel these count), and a few football slips in the fall, I've stayed pretty clean. Expanding the horizons. Getting out of the comfort zone. Learning new tricks. Yadda, yadda, yadda, personal growth and edification and such.

But then I looked through this Jeff City shoot. I thought about the experience. The game was frigid. Blustery. Excruciatingly cold. I could barely hold the metal cameras, lenses and monopod, even with the sexy grip gloves I had and, despite four clothing layers, two coats, a hat and a waterproof outer shell, I started shivering in the second half. At random points throughout the game, it rained, of course, and the wind was nearly constant. My 500mm lens kept spotting up from the rain, even though I had the hood on, had it wrapped in a trashbag, and kept it pointed down. The water was blowing up into the lens and also hampering the functionality of my glasses. Of course it was.

In addition to my personal trials on the sidelines, the team I was covering was having issues. They were kind enough to score a touchdown early in the game, right in front of me, so I could send that picture, but then the wheels fell off. I could only take so many pictures of their defense running away from me, after the opposing guy with the ball in the end zone, but I made my deadlines by camping out in the faces of fans and cheerleaders who were watching their team lose their playoff run and then forcing myself out on the field after the whole mess to document burly teenage boys openly sobbing and desperately trying to hide from me.

And I loved every damn second of it.

I did what I do best, which was photograph sports action and couldn't have been happier. The weather never bothered me, despite how terrible it was. I was prepared for it, knew it would suck, made the most of it. I made deadline, sent complete captions, gave coverage to both on and off the field, sent options. Sent good pictures. Rocked the assignment. Was encouraged to apply for an internship. Didn't destroy any equipment, didn't lose any fingers, wasn't hit by a football or a player.

Even though I hadn't been on a sideline in almost six months, I was home again, and never missed a beat. Fell right back in stride. In terms of how I felt during an assignment, that game was the high point of my time in Missouri.

My point here - and I do have one - is that maybe I've been trying so hard (too hard?) here to create a new passion when I already identified it. I seem to always want to take the toughest road I can find. If I'm too comfortable doing something, then it's just too easy and I'm not learning enough and I really must challenge myself more and move outside my comfort zone to grow as a journalist and a human and all of these other poetic things, yet all of this growth involves such an overwhelming gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands and, as you can see, late night blog posts about existential crises and ultimate purposes of grad school and life in general.

So, really now, what am I doing here?

[This question will be revisited, rehashed and, perhaps, if we're all lucky, may even be answered before too long. Hopefully before I graduate in December.]


Joshua Bickel said...

no. 5 for sure. the space is filled out better (4 has some empty space between players) and i think the emotion reads the same in both images.

Anonymous said...

I understand your feelings exactly.

For three years, I shot sports. Sports, sports, and more sports. I knew, this year, I needed to expand my vision into something beyond that. Photo stories, news, etc. I didn't photograph many sporting events last semester.

But then I finally shot my first football game. The one against Kansas.

It snowed and rained. I was freezing. I felt like a complete idiot when Jamie Squire chastised me for not putting a trashbag on his camera.

And yet, despite the crappy weather and worrying a lot, I didn't mind any of it all. I loved the whole sporting atmosphere. You know all the clich├ęs... the jubilation of the athletes, the excessive yelling from fans, etc.

I just loved every moment of it.

Maybe I shouldn't stray from sports as much as I think it would help. I mean, I'd like to do other things as well, like fashion or something (couture poses, you know)... but other kinds of photography just don't bring me passion like sports photography does.