When you go to sporting events with a super-zoom camera, you end up seeing things that might otherwise have escaped your notice. When you go to sporting events with a super-zoom camera, in other words, you discover that spying on your fellow spectators is almost as much fun as watching the game on the field.
I’ve always been a people-watcher, and sporting events are a great venue for people-watching. Sporting events attract large crowds of people, and when people think everyone else is watching the action on the field, they feel free to be themselves in public. Just as folks naturally assume that no one is watching them while they drive, the presumed anonymity afforded by a large crowd allows fans to feel like they’re sitting at home on their couch, watching the game on TV. If everyone else is watching the game, no one will notice (or care) if I spend the game reading the newspaper, texting my friends, or consuming inordinate amounts of food and drink.
Because J and I attend (and take photos at) so many baseball, soccer, basketball, and hockey games, we’ve expanded our photographic subject matter to include many things besides what happens in the actual game. We have an ongoing challenge to one another, for instance, to photograph food, believing that hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, pizza, and beer add a great deal of “flavor” (both literally and figuratively) to any given event. When I see this picture of an entire tray of snow-cones, for instance, I instantly remember how HOT it was to sit in the outfield at Atlanta’s Turner Field on a sunny, 90-degree day last month. Sweating in the stands–and cooling off with an appropriately cold treat–is simply part of what it means to watch a baseball game.
Because both J and I are constantly on the lookout for interesting candid shots of fans, food, and the like, we spend only part of any given game concentrating on what’s happening on the field. The rest of the time, we entertain one another with an ongoing people-watching play-by-play. I might point J toward an interesting example of fried dough, for instance, or J might nudge me toward yet another shot of someone taking pictures. I’m sure to other people-watching fans, J’s and my behavior is incredibly odd: who, after all, goes to a baseball game in order to watch (and take extreme closeup pictures of) other fans? And yet, I get a perverse kick out of the thought that some other people-watching photographer might be photographing me photographing yet another fan. Isn’t the entire fan experience just as much a part of the game as the actual players and score?
Both my blogging and my photography have always felt a bit like snooping. There’s a vicarious thrill in reading someone’s blog, and there’s an exhibitionist thrill in sharing: we humans seem to enjoy both watching and being watched. The whole point of spectator sports, after all, is spectating, so who can blame you if your eyes wander from the field to take in one’s fellow fans?
Both J and I try to preserve the anonymity of the people we shoot: like Jo(e) with her blogged pictures of friends, family, and naked bloggers, J and I take a lot of pictures of the backs or sides of people’s heads, their eyes hidden by hair, sunglasses, or an occasional pair of binoculars. Both J and I also try to shoot candid shots that respect the human dignity of our anonymous subjects: the point isn’t to catch someone doing something stupid or embarrassing but to capture those moments of genuine humanity we all share. Like journalists looking for human interest stories, both J and I are on the perpetual lookout for images that capture what it means to be alive and human at any given moment.
As admittedly odd as J and my photo-obsessions are, I’d like to think that looking at the world through this sort of eyes is a boon to my creative life. At any given sporting event, there are shots that are obvious–hockey face-offs, for instance, or basketball free-throws–but the real artistry, I think, lies in shooting the non-obvious shot. When I first saw last week’s Photo Friday theme, Eyes, what I immediately considered sharing was an image of gratuitous cuteness. After spending almost a week thinking about last week’s Photo Friday theme, though, I decided to go with something less obvious. My own eyes, it seems, are drawn to shoot things that other folks might not admit to looking at, one of them being the binocular-assisted eyes of other fans at a hot Atlanta ballgame.
This is my long-overdue contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Eyes. Most of today’s images come from my photo-set from the third and final Braves game J and I attended during last month’s Red Sox pilgrimage. Enjoy!