Pursuant to the earlier post this week, about trying to craft a coherent portfolio out of the flotsam and jetsam of a lengthy career, there is another layer to all of it. Your pictures, portfolio quality or not, become one of the more elaborate scrapbooks anyone could hope to have. That’s what happens when you have a job that requires you to photographically notate the people you’ve met and places you’ve been. Well known folks have a habit of popping up in the news now and then, so downstream of your photographic intersection with them you might notice when they do this or that. I don’t lay claim to really “know” many of the people I’ve photographed over the years. But, they are, in a real, albeit odd way, a bit of an extended family.
Recently, the NYT ran a lengthy piece on the fractured journey of Greg Oden, one of the most highly coveted college basketball players in recent memory. He is potentially reborn in Miami, where they are letting his body make its own timetable for a return to the court. Injuries have dogged him. As has occasionally happened historically with a number of big basketball centers, who look imposing, rugged and fierce, his pins appear to be made of bone china, susceptible to cracks, breaks and chips. The nightly bashing that takes place on the court breaks them down in short order. Chosen for the league in 2007, he has played a total of 82 games.
Even back in college, when I photographed him, he seemed to maintain his own pace. My mandate for the job was to show his size, and one way Sports Illustrated asked me to do that was to compress the frame, squash it, and thus him, making him seem uncomfortably oversized in a small space. Think Gandalf in Bilbo’s house. We added to the illusion (well, actually, the reality) of his size by having him hold a souvenir style, small scale basketball and positioning him on a tiny court. The ball made a handy pillow in between sets.
He was easygoing to a fault, and spent some time with us. He was a college kid who had the appearance and demeanor of a much older soul. I moved fast, as I always do, and gave the magazine a second choice for a look.
When trying an angle such as above for someone who is seven feet tall, it is advisable to bring a ladder.
We used a big light for a big man. The Elinchrom 74″ Octa was the main light, and it was filled with a soft wash of a couple flash heads through a suspended 12′ silk. The background was accented slightly with a pop of a shoot thru umbrella. It was basically a wall of light coming at him from camera left, which gave me 1/250th @f11.
As happens with some athletes, rather blessedly, he was unperturbed, and seemingly a bit nonplussed with all the fuss. He was amiable, and agreeable, all seven feet of him. I hope he’s back on a court soon. More tk….