There is a history of actors becoming directors, models become designers, and, more recently, athletes becoming photographers. Isaac Rochell, defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers, is one of the latest to step up to the lens. More often than not, the photography of these second career artists focuses on their first career: sport. What do you think about second-career photographers?
Whenever the conversation turns to athlete photographers there are, rightfully so, questions about access. For example, does Ken Griffey Jr. deserve to be given field passes and an assignment by ESPN at the Fiesta Bowl? Does he deserve this in light of all the working photographers that would have benefited from this chance? I'm sure being Randy Johnson helped Johnson get access to certain NASCAR pits. Similarly, it's likely that Rochell's status as a professional athlete facilitated his recent shoot with Maurice Hooker, current World Jr. Welterweight boxing champ. To be honest though, all three seem to have a knack for it.
Personally, I appreciate how they use their platform. Griffey Jr. has taken time to ask his massive followings to look at the work of other photographers.
Rochell has been using his platform to highlight the mental health dangers of social media, something that comes up here on Fstoppers time and time again. Check out the #seeyouonsunday hashtag.
I think that as we enter into this discussion it's important that we remember that the world is not a meritocracy. Who you are, where you are, and when you are, are as important to success as talent and hustle.
Getting access to sporting events or to other athletes isn't different than the kids of soccer and pop stars being given advertising campaigns, is it? In fact, I'd suggest that athletes being given access to sporting events for photography requires much more work than being born to famous parents. These athletes have spent decades learning their sport and being involved in sport generally.
In these sport cross-over cases, the new photographers at least have a deep understanding of sport that helps to facilitate the photography. They're going to understand the rhythm of the game much more than most. Their insights will be different than even those who have been shooting sports for decades.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of Walter Iooss's ability to capture the action (I had The Catch on my wall as a teenager for almost a decade):
And see the poetry in sport:
The photography first photographers often have a touch of art to them that second career photographers would be best to learn and hone before showing up at important sporting events to shoot. But, these athlete photographers do bring something unique to the table: an understanding of the effort it takes to be on the field. Something that comes through in their photography.
A recent article on Rochell by Eric D. Williams, a staff writer at ESPN, sheds a a bit of light on Rochell's hobby.
What I did find interesting about the ESPN article is Rochell's understanding that photography is work.
But this, Rochell adds, pointing to his subject, drenched in sweat [...] He's training and you have to find unique ways to find a shot that people would enjoy.
I know pro photographers that don't spend this much time thinking about what they're shooting. Spray and pray can be the mantra. I find Rochell's desire to learn admirable.
What do you think?