November, 2011 Archives

Before the Gun

November 25th, 2011 Permalink

Anyone who participates or used to participate in competitive sports can remember the tension before the start.  I photographed the Washington State Girl’s Swimming and Diving Championships a couple of weeks ago and in between events I became much more interested in the anxiety, excitement, and adrenaline of the competitors before they swam: the nervous [...]

Anyone who participates or used to participate in competitive sports can remember the tension before the start.  I photographed the Washington State Girl’s Swimming and Diving Championships a couple of weeks ago and in between events I became much more interested in the anxiety, excitement, and adrenaline of the competitors before they swam: the nervous chatter and the smiles, the jumping up and down, the looks of “what if?” in their eyes, the desperate search for songs on their ipods, and that one last breath on the starting block.  Even though it is an entirely different situation, the body must physiologically be responding in much of the same way that it does when preparing for war.

And for that reason, I didn’t envy the pit in their stomachs, because I also remember looking at the adults all bundled up with hot chocolate in their hands before the gun at cold, early cross country meets in high school while thinking “Why am I doing this? If only we could trade places”.   But spectators will never know the level of joy and relief that comes with working through that pain and discomfort only to come out on the other side saying, “Screw that hot chocolate, “I did it, I did it.”

Keep your Eye on the Bull

November 16th, 2011 Permalink

“The scandal should start a national conversation—perhaps including congressional hearings—on how the pursuit of athletic glory has created sports subcultures on campuses in which no one is accountable to anyone….there is a common feature: a culture that turns athletes into gods and coaches into high priests. When eyes became so blind as to sweep child [...]

“The scandal should start a national conversation—perhaps including congressional hearings—on how the pursuit of athletic glory has created sports subcultures on campuses in which no one is accountable to anyone….there is a common feature: a culture that turns athletes into gods and coaches into high priests. When eyes became so blind as to sweep child abuse under the table at one of the most revered programs in the country, the need for a culture of accountability in big-time college sports is more urgent than ever.”          Boston Globe editorial – author unknown.

Read this editorial in the Boston Globe and I can’t believe we even have to wake people up to this.  It jogged my memory back to an incident (which in no way comes even close to Sandusky’s crimes), but it shows how even on a smaller scale, the lust for winning can have everyone in a state of pathological denial.

I shot this frame at the Oak Park River Forest High School vs Fenwick High School Girl’s Water Polo Sectional in May 2009.  I spent many evenings and weekends covering sports at both of these schools and never ran into any trouble.   That day I was shooting at Fenwick in my usual position just behind the goal. There was a time-out called and I was just looking down at my camera when a huge hand slapped me and my camera so hard I went flying back.  After catching my camera I looked up and realized it was the Fenwick girl’s coach in a major huff after talking to one of the referees.  He was upset about a call and he chose to assault me because, well I guess I was standing there.

I looked up in disbelief and caught the eye of a few of the girls on the team and they had their mouths open but quickly said ” Oh, he just accidentally hit you with the ball.”  I was like “No, I don’t think so.”

I went over to confront him and he yelled back at me “Who are you anyway?” denying what he had done.  I looked over and I couldn’t believe that not one parent or coach was even taking my side.  All I could think was “this is a college preparatory Catholic High School?!”

I immediately went to find the athletic director and came across the boys coach who seemed concerned and listened to my story but that was about as far as it went.  After the game a couple of older female coaches were like “Oh, he didn’t mean it – he just gets like that and doesn’t even realize he is doing it.”

All I could think was, wow, scary that he is working with a bunch of young girls and exhibiting behavior like this and then they cover up for him?  But of course they would  and why?  They win state just about every year.

I immediately called the athletic director and the principal of the school and then reported it to the IHSA.  The principal called me back and was genuinely concerned and upset.  I eventually got a call from the athletic director and the coach himself who apologized to me and asked what he could do.  It turns out the entire incident was caught on camera, so there was no longer a way to deny it.

This made me feel better, but I was disappointed to learn that the coach was not suspended and he took his team down to win state a couple of weeks later.   So who cares if he slaps people around when he’s mad?

In the face of winning or not, when something bad happens, the power of denial is strong – especially when you want to believe the best in others.   After he slapped me I had to think “did that just happen?”    For a few days I even thought, “well maybe he did just hit me with the ball on accident.”

I was very thankful for the video that caught the incident.  I could feel like I wasn’t crazy and maybe he learned a lesson.

It’s just another reason to love cameras.

Windows to History

November 11th, 2011 Permalink

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”   Henry David Thoreau WWII Veteran Marvin Kruse’s eyes: witnessed the beaches of Normandy when he landed there in 1944, discerned between comrade and enemy during street fights, kept a careful watch on mortars and artillery in 5 [...]

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”   Henry David Thoreau

WWII Veteran Marvin Kruse’s eyes: witnessed the beaches of Normandy when he landed there in 1944, discerned between comrade and enemy during street fights, kept a careful watch on mortars and artillery in 5 battles including the Battle of the Bulge, and experienced the cheers of the French while marching underneath the Arche de Triomphe during the Liberation of Paris. |

I was lucky enough to photograph those eyes last year in Franklin Park, Ill.    And after photographing and speaking with Marvin, it was also an honor to be  able to capture joy and hope in his eyes.

Thank you U.S. veterans and Mr. Kruse.

All that Glitters

November 2nd, 2011 Permalink

I heard one of my favorite Bruce Springteen songs on the radio yesterday and it still gives me chills – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”  with guest Tom Morello.  The video can be seen here and even though I’m not a big screeching guitar fan, the guitar solo at the end is insanely incredible.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-c6GphpAeY&ob=av3e [...]

I heard one of my favorite Bruce Springteen songs on the radio yesterday and it still gives me chills – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”  with guest Tom Morello.  The video can be seen here and even though I’m not a big screeching guitar fan, the guitar solo at the end is insanely incredible.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-c6GphpAeY&ob=av3e

A couple of years ago the photo editor at the Sun Times News Group asked me if I wanted to go shoot a rock star.  I emphatically said “Yes!  Who?”  He said “Tom Morello”  and I was like “Who’s that”?  I had heard of Rage Against the Machine but I did not know of Morello’s fame.  I was glad because it made me less nervous about the assignment.  He was in town promoting SEIU union workers and finishing up one of his tours as a solo artist.  I was to photograph him at the home of a daycare in Bellwood, Ill.  He was going to come and help feed the kids snacks, and help with the general needs of the daycare.

Even though he showed up with a small entourage it was actually a refreshing PR situation.  No ribbon cuttings or fake handshakes, just Tom and crew helping out.  I was just about ready to leave and I thought “No, just stay a few more minutes, you never know what will happen”.  About 2 minutes later he announces that he’s going to the backyard to play for the kids.  I just remember thinking “Wow, I’m shooting a rock star tuning his guitar in the backyard surrounded by kids toys – so glad I stayed.”   As if that weren’t great enough he says, “Oh, here comes my friend Ben Harper, he’s going to join me,”  and Ben Harper walks around the corner.  They proceeded to play a little concert for the kids while sitting on toys.

Mr. Morello was incredibly nice and genuine and even though I know I am to remain calm and dispassionate, it was just a  tad hard.

When telling this story, another  photographer once told me that I was too distracted by “the shiny object”.  Actually it wasn’t the rock star that was so great, but it was shooting someone out of the “rock star element” that made it so exciting for me.    Secondly,  it doesn’t matter if I’m photographing a teacher, a kid or an office worker,  it’s all shiny to me.