Miami Beach, Florida-based Mary Beth Koeth (pronounced KAYTH) is used to shooting athletes who have made it to the top of the sporting food chain, a big part of why AdWeek brought her on board for one of its recent projects.
Kacy Burdette, the photo editor who assigned this shoot, had seen some of the work that I had done with Venus Williams. She liked that my style was different from what you normally see in AdWeek.
[AdWeek] wanted to emphasize Alex as a force, both on the field and as an advocate for equal pay.
Alex Morgan, the swaggering, two-time World Cup winner who has scored more than 100 goals for the United States, cuts an intimidating figure. But this belies her easy-going nature, a disposition which made the 45-minute shoot a pretty laid-back affair.
Right when Alex walked through the door, she came up and introduced herself. She smiled and said, ‘A female photographer! I love that.’ Alex has a way of putting everyone at ease. She’s down to earth and kind.
Due to time constraints as a result of Alex’s hectic training schedule, Mary Beth and stylist Mila Gonzalez Kastari had to set up shop early in order to plan ahead properly.
I tried to make sure we were able to get in a few hours beforehand, so we [went and] scoped out the place and played with lighting and setups. I like to set expectations and talk through a plan of action. There’s time for on-the-fly work within reason. If we’re able to get in more, great, but you get a sense for when to call it.
In order to get a sense of the poses Alex would need to perform, Mary Beth had her assistant model them.
Like a true nerd, I googled ‘athletic drills’ before the shoot and had my assistant, Javier, practice in front of the camera. We showed Alex a few side-to-side drills that worked, and she got on set and nailed it. If you look at the images of Alex next to the images of Javier, it’s clear who the world-class athlete is. I say that with love. Javier is fit, but he’s not winning a World Cup anytime soon.
My intention was to move through those pretty quickly, so we could then focus on the cover shot, which was looser and more experimental. Alex was awesome. She was really open to direction, understood the look we were going for and was super fun to collaborate with.
Alex’s ability to go with the flow and enthusiasm for the project made Mary Beth and Mila’s jobs much easier. Mary Beth believes the soccer star’s willingness to work with the creative team enhanced the final product.
We decided on two outfits because of the time constraint. I had this one setup in the corner that we lit in greens, yellows, and blues. Mila had an outfit on the rack that was fluorescent yellow. I showed Alex the test shot and said, ‘that outfit over there would look amazing.’ Without hesitation she said, ‘Let’s do it!’ It made the image that much stronger.
Although Kacy wasn’t at the studio, Mary Beth made sure to text her pictures of Alex as the shoot was happening. When she saw Kacy’s reaction, Mary Beth knew the assignment was going to be a success.
Despite the fact that she was shooting an athlete, Mary Beth didn’t want to do this project outdoors, or even on an athletic field for that matter. Thus, Orlando’s Orange Studio became the perfect place to get everything done.
It was important to find a space where we could play with light and color in a dynamic way where Alex would remain the focus. I was drawn to the concrete walls at Orange Studio in Orlando and was able to light the space with colored gels that would pair nicely with Mila’s styling. [Since,] it’s a blank canvas with texture, you can light it a million ways, and it’ll look different every time.
[AdWeek] wanted me to keep Alex the focus. Whatever is going on around her shouldn’t be a distraction. This is why I didn’t want to shoot on a soccer field or in a stadium. The story was about Alex as a strong female athlete.
Alex’s collaborative nature aside, the success of this project came down to Mary Beth’s ability to plan ahead. The Miamian has honed this skill over years of work, and it all came together for this shoot.
You have to go in knowing what you want and how to achieve it technically. My background is in design communication. So a lot of times before these shoots, I’ll make sketches and put together mini mood boards so I can visualize the outcome.
See more of Mary Beth’s work on her website.