Columbus, Ohio-based photographer Kirk Irwin has been professionally photographing sports for the past 14 years. His portfolio, which includes work for Getty Images, the NYTimes, and The Associated Press, spans just about every type of sport. If the game happened in or near Columbus, Ohio, Kirk likely captured it.
His most recent project, a book encompassing his work with Ohio State Athletics, is the culmination of many years of covering the genre. The book, titled “Scarlet and Grey: a decade of Ohio State Athletics,” also allowed him to complete his master’s program at Syracuse University.
The idea for the book came about through Kirk’s academic adviser at the S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications, Seth Gitner, who looked through his portfolio and suggested the project. Seth then worked with Kirk to develop the idea for the book and bring it to life.
All the images in the book were shot at games during Kirk’s 14-year career photographing them. His passion for sports photography is evidenced by the sharp, documentary quality of the work and his ability to capture legendary moments in an extremely fast-paced environment.
I enjoy shooting sports for the challenge that it poses. The games move quickly, and you have to be in the right place at the right time to catch those defining moments. Each event is different, and the venues are all different, making each shoot its own unique thing.
Since he’s been photographing the same team, season after season, it can also become familiar territory. The consistency has also forced him to get creative with searching for new angles and testing new lighting setups to create visual interest and get varied images from each game or season.
I always try to come up with angles/framings for remote cameras that will give a different view than the traditional sideline look. If the event allows for it, I’ll try to move around the stadium to find a unique angle to shoot from.
Kirk’s images strike a perfect balance between editorial and documentary style. Because there are often many photographers in one game, it’s crucial that the resulting images from the shoot are different from those other photographers may have taken. Kirk’s keen eye for detail and ability to capture unique vignettes of emotional and adrenaline-fueled moments frozen in time is what makes his work stand out.
The large-format book, which was printed in hardcover, was a new experience for Kirk. He enjoyed the storytelling and the process of putting it together, but he didn’t expect how much work it would take to cull down the selects.
I assumed going in that it would be a long process, but I wasn’t expecting just how much work it would be to whittle down 10+ years of shooting to 72 pages. Getting down to 1,000 images was pretty straightforward, but that next bit of winnowing took quite a while!
The collection of photos captures a decade of important moments in Ohio State Athletics. Kirk’s vivid images transport the viewer directly to that moment in time and provide them a front-row seat to the most exciting parts of an action-packed game. More than just documenting what happened, the photos communicate the feelings felt by those present — the suspense behind the scenes before a big game, the ups and downs of watching as a spectator, and the madness that ensues when the team brings home a victory.
When it gets close to championship games, there is an energy and excitement present in the building. It creates an atmosphere that makes you want to create the best possible images!