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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2011-12-12
Personal Reflections On Penn State
By Christy Radecic
"Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…it remembers little things long after your have forgotten everything." - Aaron Siskind.
I believe a good photographer can make images out of moments and tell a story for a lifetime.
Photo by Christy Radecic
Penn State's Joe Paterno on the sidelines during the Outback Bowl in 2011.
I'm relatively new to photography by most standards. Born in the digital age and fueled by my enthusiasm to use all the tools in my trusty Airport Security Roller. Terribly uneducated in the classical aspects of the craft but, I'm willing to learn and I'm creatively inspired by what I see in a finished image and the feeling it inspires about that one instant in time. Whether it's an iconic architectural structure, the biggest sporting event in the world or a simple iPhone capture, an image becomes a record of my unique perspective "the moment it clicks" (best title ever, Mr. McNally).
In trying to establish my freelance business, I've ventured out on all kinds of assignments. Growing my portfolio and carving my niche in a saturated sports and events market. Using every opportunity presented and making many happen because you have to find a way to stand out and be identifiable in a very big competitive crowd.
Recently, I made something happen. I chose to pursue a personal project back at my alma mater to make some pictures of our beloved head football coach, Joe Paterno. I went to Penn State in 1982, met a linebacker on the football team, married him close to campus, became a mother at the local Centre Community Hospital and years later, proudly watched my son play D1 lacrosse for the Nittany Lions and graduate from OUR school. I wanted to go back and take some pictures of something I knew very, very well.
First up? With rumors of retirement swirling around the bowl game match up featuring Florida Gator's head coach, Urban Meyer, and Coach Paterno's Nittany Lions at the end of the 2010 season, I jumped on a plane and spent New Year's Day shooting Coach exclusively from the sidelines. I wanted to make an image for my portfolio before Paterno's celebrated 45-year head-coaching career came to an end. I made the most of my experience as Penn State lost to the Gator's and I crossed my fingers for another opportunity to see him through my lens in 2011.
I got my wish. Next up? I planned to get Coach Paterno on the sidelines at home in Beaver Stadium surrounded by his team and approximately 110, 000 of their most loyal supporters. An unfortunate injury from a sideline collision in a team practice early in the 2011 season put Coach in the team's press box game after game. Concerned I was running out of time, I scheduled a shoot the 2nd to last home game vs. Illinois and crossed my fingers that his injury would improve enough to allow him to be on the field.
It's funny how you can plan and plan to make a moment. Conjuring that creative visual in your head, methodically making arrangements, carrying it out with an amount of confidence in the outcome and hoping for a little luck to make it magical. It's funny how you can plan and plan to make a moment and, how often it goes….in a completely different direction.
I got my images.
Anticipating his potential absence on the sideline, I made pictures of "JoePa" as we alumni affectionately call him, all over campus the day before the game. He's everywhere, you know. The Paterno library, the life size cut out JoePa in every campus bookstore and restaurant window on College Ave., the bronze commemorative statue outside the stadium, and the namesake of the most popular ice cream flavor at the Creamery, "Peachy Paterno". It was fun image to shoot and a delicious break in my day.
I shot an improved game (much thanks to my encouraging mentors and learning experience at the recent Sports Shooter Academy VIII!) in the un-forecasted 4-6 inches of cold wet snow. JoePa never made an appearance on the sideline. The game was messy and uninspired until the last 10 minutes when suddenly the home team rallied from behind to give Coach his 409th victory making him the winningest Division 1 NCAA football history.
The post-game press conference took place in a tiny, warm (equals foggy equipment) room off the service tunnel. Everyone knew who was coming, the room hushed and in walked University President, Graham Spanier, accomplished Athletic Director, Tim Curley and the legendary Head Coach, Joe Paterno. In this dark concrete alcove beneath the stadium, we watched the presentation of the plaque that simply read, "Joe Paterno - Educator of Men - Winningest Coach - Division One Football". I recorded the ceremony with my camera as the home fans watched the streaming feed live on the stadium scoreboards. We all watched history happen. I had my moment.
Coach down played it as usual, made a brief acceptance, answered media questions with cliché insight and dismissed everyone when he was done with the comment that "you guys are just going to write what you want". He exited the room coughing and showing a sense his frail soon to be 85 years. It wasn't exactly the way I envisioned or planned but, it was a big moment and I felt very fortunate that I took the opportunity to be present.
And then the moment changed.
I'm not going to comment on the alleged scandal. There are plenty of people willing to voice their opinion...educated, ignorant and shockingly accused. I personally know all the players in this horrifying cover-up.
My heart aches for all the victims, their families and the countless lives that will be changed forever. I am and always will be Penn State Proud and will support the great university that boasts outstanding educated students, faculty and alumni who have nothing to do with the choices made by a few. I hope to be part of the solution.
However, I now look at the pictures and wonder what moment they represent for me. Certainly not the moment I meticulously planned.
Are they the portfolio material I was looking for?
Are they a celebration of a legendary achievement in a NCAA Athletics?
Do they now represent the players in the tragic downfall of one of the greatest programs in D1 Athletics?
Are they newsworthy?
Are they images for the highest bidder?
Are they fodder for sensational journalism and endless slideshow reports on every news/talk show in circulation?
Are they lucky?…
Or are they just stored gigabytes backed up on my hard drive with no significance.
Only time will tell. I realize as I keep shooting with an eye to be relevant and thoughtful in my creativity to stand out as a photographer, I have far less control than I thought.
(Christy Radecic is a Penn State alum and is currently a freelance photographer based in San Diego, Calif. To see examples for her work, check out her Sports Shooter member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/members.html?id=9420 and her personal website: http://www.christyradecic.com/.)
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