It all started with a newspaper clipping. Connecticut-based photographer Jane Shauck had won a photo award and her local West Hartford newspaper did a nice write-up about her photography business. A local mother clipped out the article and passed it along to her daughter, who just happened to be Julie Frahm, the Director of Original Programming and Production at SportsNet New York (SNY) in Manhattan.
Julie held onto the clipping and reached out to Jane about a potential shoot of the New York Mets during Spring Training in Port St. Lucie in February 2009, with the stills to be used in video spots for SNY. Several phone calls and negotiations later, Jane was awarded the job.
In 2009, Jane’s still photography of Mets players was only used in black and white within a video montage for SNY television spots. This was their first time incorporating stills into the video. The shoot has continued to evolve over the years with art direction from Julie and SNY’s creative services group led by Creative Director Rich Amsinger. Ten years later, Jane still has this job. And the perks have gotten sweeter, such as seeing her images of players being shown 50′ high on the Jumbotron at every Mets home game.
Pictures of the Mets players are taken once a year during Spring Training in a grand event known as “Picture Day.” The festivities begin at 6:30 a.m. at First Data Field. Players travel a “circuit” set up on the field, visiting various other photographers snapping away for baseball cards, MLB promotions, and other media uses. Jane is the last stop, set up inside the visiting team locker room.
To prepare for picture day the team comes up with a shot sequence and lighting layout.
Those first years, we would set up the lighting in our living room and prove it out with my business partner and husband, Mike, in a baseball hat, swinging a bat, etc. Now we have a studio and prove it all out there. Then in Port St. Lucie we meet with Julie to plan the flow of the shoot, set up the equipment, pre-light and test the afternoon before “Photo Day”.
The setup is simple: a dark gray seamless and one Profoto Octabox with a grid. Sixty players cycle through her set, about one every minute. Working efficiently as a team, Julie and Jane sequence the shots and pose the players up to 8 times in the sixty-second window, miming their pitching and field positions and capturing different facial expressions.
Jane’s biggest challenge of the shoot is getting the lighting right. One lighting setup has to accommodate the different heights of the players and different poses – from pitching to hitting, left and right-handed – which is a definite challenge. Once the shoot commences, there is no time to adjust the light between players. This “set it and forget it” situation enables Jane and Julie to focus on the subjects and keep the flow going at a quick, consistent pace.
Even though they’re the last stop on the photo circuit, they’re usually wrapped by 8:00 a.m. And they just might be the most fun stop as well.
We are the only female photographer-producer team. Mike always notes that with Julie and me running the shoot, the players seem to let their guard down, allowing for some intimate shots. We’re also the only stop with music playing… it was reggae this year.
Showing the personalities of the players has always been the ultimate goal. Jane and Julie have experimented with different mood direction over the years, ranging from fun and playful to steely “game face” types of expressions. But the mood among the players is always loose and playful. Players “on deck” often tease and provoke the current subject, only to meet the same fate in front of the lens one minute later.
Jane has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback on these images. In 2009, the first series of images were submitted to PDN’s “Faces” contest and were included in the winners. They also won “Best of ASMP” that same year. Tim Gunkel, Executive Director of Productions and Events at the New York Mets, has been a big supporter of the images and has encouraged their use throughout the Mets organization.
Julie has been consistently impressed with the images and the on-set experience of working with the Shaucks:
Working with Jane and Mike has been an awesome collaboration. Ten years ago we took a chance on someone who had never photographed professional athletes…and that risk has paid off in spades over the years. The fact that Jane is able to capture such expressively beautiful images with literally less than a minute of shooting time with each player astounds me to this day. What a talent she is, and what a great team she and Mike are.
Recently, the NY Mets Marketing group has used the images more—on billboards and marketing collateral, as well as featuring them as the official “batter up” roster images on the “Jumbotron,” the large video scoreboard at Citi Field.
Jane thinks back fondly on the ten years she’s been doing this project:
My favorite part is the shoot itself and working with Julie and the players. Lots of build-up to the shoot, then once the first player comes the adrenaline kicks in, it’s totally fun, and it’s over before we know it. Interacting with Julie and the players makes the shoot a true collaboration. After shooting for ten years, we really feel like part of the Mets / SNY marketing team.
Jane and Mike have greatly expanded their commercial photography business over the last ten years, and have worked with SNY on other projects which include photographing the UConn Men’s and Women’s basketball teams.
See more of Jane’s work on her website.
At SNY: Julie Frahm, Director, Original Programming and Production
Curt Gowdy, Jr., Senior Vice President, Production and Executive Producer
Rich Amsinger, Creative Director