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|| News Item: Posted 2009-12-28

Decade Collection: Peter Read Miller
'When the players would ask: 'What do you want me to do?' I usually replied, 'Whatever you want…' The results were interesting and revealing.

By Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Reggie Bush
This photo of Reggie Bush was taken in November of 2005. It was part of a project to shoot portraits of as many members of the 2005 USC Football team as possible. Since USC would not allow me to set up on their practice field or in their locker room I created an outdoor studio on a lawn next to the walkway from the practice field to the locker room.

For three nights the week before Thanksgiving my crew and I set up a 12- foot background, lights and 4x5 view camera. Thank God it didn’t rain. After practice, as the players would walk to the locker room we would buttonhole as many as possible each night, pop them in front of the background and shoot from 2 to 4 sheets of black and white film of each player.

The set up was pretty much a straight Richard Avedon rip-off. White background, single light from one side and large format camera. “When the players would ask: “What do you want me to do?” I usually replied, “Whatever you want…” The results were interesting and revealing.

I really enjoy shooting large format portraits. There is something about the size of the camera and the ritual involved taking each picture that seems to bring a certain gravitas to the moment. I think the process of several people working together to cock the shutter, put in the film holder, pull the dark slide, fire the camera, replace the dark slide and flip the holder-makes the subject realize that this isn’t just someone “snapping” their picture, but rather something a little more special.

When the photos were made USC had just completed an undefeated season and were heading for a Rose Bowl match against the University of Texas. The photos were to run the special issue of Sports Illustrated commemorating USC’s victory and National Championship. Of course things didn’t quite work out that way. The Longhorns won and the photos were never published except on my website.

As disappointed as I was that these photos were not published, this was a shoot where the greatest satisfaction came from just doing it. The challenge and teamwork involved in working with large format. Coming up with a way to do the shoot without interfering with USC’ practice schedule. Capturing a broad range of emotions from these young men in a unique time in their lives, and working with a great team of photographers and assistants all of whom I’m proud to have as friends.

All these things made this project one of my most memorable shoots of the last 10 years.

(Peter Read Miller is a Sports Illustrated staff photographer. Yiu can see his member page here:

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