Houston-based photographer Felix Sanchez set out across seven cities to capture imagery for The Sport of Cheer: Portrait of an Athlete. This recently released book, written by Roberta Konicki and Jane Dabney, documents one of the most physically demanding sports in the country: cheerleading. Felix was commissioned for this project through a graphic designer, who was also involved in the production.
The goal was to produce a unique photo book that gives an inside look at cheerleading in America and gives the sport the proper credit it deserves.
With a packed calendar, Felix adjusted his schedule to make room for the shoot. He tumbled and leaped from state to state, photographing different cheer squads. Along the way, he encountered a few coordination mix-ups, which were bound to occur amongst all the moving parts involved in this project.
To kick off the series, Felix arrived in Orlando where he documented the Maryland Twisters: Eye of the Storm, one of the first established cheerleading teams for special needs. Upon heading out to an evening rehearsal from the team’s hotel, Felix felt lucky enough to observe and photograph an emotional and heartwarming moment that he will never forget.
All of a sudden I noticed in the lobby that the team had formed a tunnel with their hands meeting up high, as each team member passed underneath with excitement. Everyone in the lobby was cheering, and there were so many proud parents. You could really feel the camaraderie!
Lacking the help of an assistant, Felix found himself approaching this project in a documentary way, as he snapped photos with the light that was available in each practice location. Moments after entering a rehearsal, Felix found himself becoming very acquainted with the modern phrase “zero to one hundred,” immediately grabbing his camera to capture the fascinating scenes taking place before him.
There’s a lot of dedication and practice, but there are also tight friendships and bonds that occur and team bonding activities that I found very interesting.
Felix’s favorite part of the assignment was shooting from an insider’s perspective, where you get to see the blood, sweat, tears, and intimacy of this team sport. The close access he had yielded several compelling images, and it’s no surprise that Felix’s photos have received many rounds of applause.
Following post-production, Felix submitted five images to the Communication Arts 2017 Photo Annual, where the photos went on to be featured in a spread of the Unpublished Category. Moving forward, Felix is excited to continue documenting this series as a personal project.
See more of Felix at felixsanchez.com!