As we start a new year, I’m taking a look back at 2018 and sharing my favorite images. It was an amazing year, and I’m continually reminded of how lucky I am to make a living taking pictures. I’ve gone through everything I shot over the past 12 months, and narrowed it down to 25 photographs. They are presented here in chronological order, and include sports, political assignments and personal stories, as well as a few previously unpublished images from my personal and commercial work. Where possible, links are provided.
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/.
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 :-)
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.
At every Falcons game, you can easily spot the photographers stacked on the sidelines, capturing each play, hit, touchdown, tackle, and dog pile. They’re the ones wearing the brown NFL vests and holding thousands of dollars worth of equipment, hoping to be in the best position possible when the Big Play happens. After all, the action is what game day is all about … without that, there would be no fans, no Georgia Dome. But there’s also a ton of action surrounding the game … the fans, the excitement, the pyrotechnics, the dancing. And while photographing the action is extremely fun and rewarding, I absolutely love shooting all the peripheral elements. To me, it’s what brings color to the game.
Football season has been over for a little while now, but this assignment was too cool not to share, even this late. Last December, the Falcons hired me to help them photograph the last game of future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, particularly his entrance on to the field during player introductions (above).