Behind the Camera: Shooting Emotion by Brian Canniff

June 27, 2013  •  1 Comment

Sometimes, it's a moment in between points that tells a story.

I was out shooting summer league this week.  There was action on two fields near me, but my eye was drawn to two old friends greeting each other.  Both are warm and photogenic, so I paused from shooting the action and got one of my favorite shots of the night.

Elation shots are easy wins. They tell a quick story and they make people feel happy. Many of us are reserved and controlled when we are playing sports. But joy is contagious, and a photo of two happy people embracing each other seems to be the essence of ultimate.

Years ago, I took a picture of a friend who was smiling after a win at a club tourney. Sadly I saw it again at her funeral. Her father said, "We liked this shot because it was one the few we have where she was happy."  These shots we take are important.

But if elation is on one side of the ultimate coin, then defeat is on the other.

Last year, I photographed a dejected Mike Baer during a Philadelphia Spinners’ game. Brent Anderson (then with the Connecticut Constitution) had just fired a pass between Mike’s hands for a goal.  Mike was seething after coming so close to the block; Brent was sheepishly celebrating behind him.  This shot was a motivator for Mike, and his Spinners wound up winning the AUDL Championship.

Shooting pain and defeat can be hard. It can feel invasive. At USAU Club Championships in 2011, I watched Ironside defeat Doublewide.  I was getting standard jubilation shots of the Ironside players when I saw a defeated Brodie Smith crossing my frame.

Brodie would eventually share that picture on Facebook. He said that it was his motivation, and his way of remembering how much he hated losing. Doublewide won Club Championships the next year.

Sometimes you see injuries, too. I think there's a line between bearing witness to pain and exploiting it.

At winter league, I watched a collision that opened up a player’s head. There was lots of blood. I shot the play, and I shot him on the ground. I was not comfortable with the latter.

But I did like one image: it was the blood-covered hands of a woman who put pressure on her teammate’s wound.  No gloves, just love. She put herself at risk for a teammate.

These moments tell stories. They may not all be happy ones, but they are all authentic, and they all speak to the humanity of the people who play the game.


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