Spent some time recently with Atlanta Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley, Jr., for The Players’ Tribune. Beasley was being interviewed for a series, “Take Action,” sponsored by American Family Insurance. I was given a few minutes for portraits with the 25-year-old, in between filming, and I also documented his day as he made rounds in his hometown of Adairsville, Ga. Above: Beasley poses for a portrait in the same locker he used in high school, at Adairsville High.
The video is about Beasley’s commitment to his hometown, helping out those in need, and just trying to be a good dude. And I have to say, he may be the most down-to-earth professional athlete I’ve ever worked with. He was genuine, and talked with me well past we were finished with the portrait session. That may sound like a small thing, but most athletes are ready to jet as soon as soon as the shoot is finished. It’s easy to see why it’s so easy for Beasley to come back to his hometown and blend in with the regulars. Well, as much as a 6-foot-3, 246-pound guy can blend in :-)
As someone who grew up 20 miles from Athens, Ga., and in a household where Bear Bryant’s stature rivaled that of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, I fully understood how epic Monday’s game was. I know how bad Georgia fans craved another national championship — their last taste of one was way back in 1981, when Herschel Walker and Co. handled Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl. And I know how hard it is stop the seemingly undefeatable Nick Saban once his Tide gets rolling.
This year, my sixth as a full-time independent photographer, was another full one. I am so eternally grateful the work that comes my way … the things I am privileged to witness, the people who allow me into their lives and trust me to tell their stories. In 2017, that work included photographing a former U.S. President, the last Falcons game at the Georgia Dome, lots and lots of politics, telling the stories of residents on Atlanta’s historic Westside, a wedding that ended with a Waffle House kiss, running around in the woods with a militia, and an amazing Iron Bowl. These are my favorite images from the past year. Thank you for taking the time to look, and here’s to a stellar 2018!
Shaq Jones’ heart stayed at UAB, even when football left. The football program there was shut down at the end of the 2014 season, after his freshman year — school officials cited finances as the reason. “I guess it’s hard to acknowledge that the thing that makes you who you are can be taken away in an instant if the bottom line falls short,” he said.
Now a (redshirt) senior, the 250-pound linebacker will play his final collegiate season under the same head coach where he started. These photos are from my time with Shaq a few weeks ago. Such a pleasure to photograph him and be a part of this story. A big thanks to Guillermo Hernandez for the wonderful edit.
You can read his full piece here: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/shaq-jones-uab-homecoming/.
Though many people are familiar with Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the National Anthem, many may not know about Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a rising star in the NBA who did the same thing 20 years earlier. Abdul-Rauf (whose name was Chris Jackson before converting to Islam), missed his prime playing years in the NBA (after being drafted third pick in the 1990 draft). After refusing to stand, citing the flag as a symbol of oppression and racism, he was suspended by the NBA. A compromise was reached, but he quickly faded into the stats book after his playing time dropped and he was let go after one more season. He was 29, and his professional career moved overseas.
Rise Up! Here are a few frames from my coverage last Sunday of the NFC Championship, between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. I covered the game for the Falcons, who I’ve worked with for several years on a number of projects.
What made this game special, among many other things, is that it was the last game played in the Georgia Dome. Ever. The Dome, built in 1992, and where countless football games, concerts, and other events have been held, will be demolished this summer. The Falcons will start the 2017 season at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is currently being constructed about 100 feet away from the Dome.
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to photograph a few Falcons players in the new throwback uniforms, which will be worn this Sunday (Oct. 23) against the Chargers, and again on Dec. 18 against the 49ers. I had about 4-5 minutes with each player, and the goal was to capture the uniform from several different angles, so the Falcons could use the images in composite (below) to announce on their website and social media. A big thanks to Michael Benford for making it all happen, and for donning Devonta’s helmet for light tests :-)
A couple of weeks ago, I had a first in my photography career: covering professional video gaming. I photographed the finals of the first week of ELeague, a partnership between WME | IMG and Turner Broadcasting. It was absolutely electric in there! Fans, many of whom waited hours for a seat in the studio, cheered and hissed at the humongous LED screen as the two teams battled each other in the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In the photo above, Epitacio de Melo, whose gamer name is TACO and plays with Luminosity, is shown on the screen as the crowd cheers.
Back in January, I traveled to Mobile, Ala., for Sports Illustrated to cover the circus that is the Senior Bowl. For most folks involved, it’s not about the game on Saturday, it’s about the week leading up. Players meet with NFL agents, coaches, financial planners, sales people of all sorts, including suit tailors peddling their services. It’s also where scouts and coaches find out as much as they can about players, including using written personality and temperament tests. It can be a dizzying few days for these players. To start if all off, players are measured, weighed, and sized up on stage in front of a few hundred folks, all while wearing only underwear while scouts and coaches fill out spreadsheets. Above, players head to the stage for the weigh-in.
Last year was unbelievable. It was my fourth year as a full-time independent photographer, and definitely my most exciting and rewarding. I worked for clients that I used to dream of shooting for, and I got to cover some of the biggest stories of the year and meet some incredible people along the way. I am forever grateful to the folks who hire and trust me to tell stories with my camera, whether it be The New York Times covering the Charleston shootings or the Atlanta Falcons to show a behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a professional football player. I also got featured (twice!) by Instagram and blogged by them, helping me gain over 90k followers! It has been a great year for sure, but I definitely have a long way to go.