For some photographers, working outside their designated specialty can expand career opportunities as they apply their expertise to a new field. LA-based fashion photographer Emily Malan recently stepped outside of her comfort zone to bring her youthful portraiture to a sports editorial assignment for Teen Vogue. This feature called for a live-action session capturing the dynamic life of paralympic athlete Ezra French.
I’m not necessarily the photographer people think of for sports imagery but for me, photography is about being able to connect and work with all kinds of people.
Emily has been working with Teen Vogue since early 2020 when her fashion photography caught the eye of another Emily, the magazine’s art director Emily Zirimis. The two Emilys met five years ago through connections in the industry and soon after began collaborating on other editorial projects at Teen Vogue.
The publication’s audience is primarily self-aware adolescents so the magazine has been recently producing lifestyle features centered around wellness and inclusivity, in a category they call “Identity.” Through this assignment, Emily aimed to visually tell the story of Ezra, a paralympic teen who is breaking records and taboos.
Emily was looking to achieve a documentary style editorial for this shoot, and I found this new territory really exciting!
The sixteen-year-old lives and trains in LA, so Emily ventured to Ezra’s own school fields where he works with his coach. Not only did this add to the authenticity of capturing Ezra’s real life, but it also helped him feel at ease working in the environment that he exercises in daily.
As Emily has rarely shot live-action talent, she had to determine the best way to capture Ezra as he ran, jumped, and moved all around the track. While she was in awe of his athleticism, she needed him to slow down just enough to focus on him in motion.
Ezra was going way too fast for my camera and I had to ask him to repeat his training moves a couple of extra times.
Ezra has dedicated much of his life to cultivating awareness about disabilities so Emily wanted to balance the shoot with portraits that speak to both the hardships he has faced along with the acceptance he has felt by sharing his story on social media. The teen openly talks about his disability through TikTok, where he posts videos that bring a comical tone to this taboo topic.
A shoot is more fun when the subject is excited. I love working with Gen Z because they’re so much cooler than I ever was at 16!
We don’t often look to young individuals as leaders who can set an example for our compassion and personal growth. Emily’s work helps provide Ezra with the essential exposure that he seeks to challenge others’ views on what he, or anyone, is capable of. Her day spent with this accomplished teen was a lesson in testing her own strengths as she pushed herself to capture his quick moves.
Watching Ezra train was amazing! It’s so inspiring to see someone go after their dreams and he even broke a few personal records while we were shooting!!