Friday, April 12, 2013

"The Moment" - Reality TV & Sports Photography

Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Inc
Last night I watched the premier episode of USA Network's "The Moment", former NFL QB Kurt Warner's reality TV show in which he gives people a second chance to live their dreams. Warner knows what it's like to fail and then get a second chance in life, going from getting cut from an NFL team to bagging groceries to eventually getting a second chance to play in the NFL. Making the most of the second chance, Warner was a two-time Player of the Year and won a Super Bowl.

Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Inc
Last night's episode involved an Alabama woman who had a photography business once upon a time but after a divorce left her with kids to raise she was forced to give it up to put food on the table for her family. Sports photography is what really spun this woman's wheels and she dabbled in it way back when. Along came Warner with a chance for her to live her dream - landing a job with Sports Illustrated as a sports photographer. 

Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Inc
Tracie Marcum, the erstwhile photographer in question, is whisked off to L.A. for a two week crash course in how to shoot sports for a high profile entity like SI. She "trains" under the tutelage of Lou Jones, one of the best sports photographers in the business. Lou is firm, honest, critical when necessary, and patient with Tracie. The training reminds me of scenes from the first Karate Kid but instead of wax on-wax off , Tracie is forced to run  around with 4 camera bodies around her neck and 4 different lenses ranging from wide angle to long, fixed telephoto as she shoots gymnastics at a training facility and some playground basketball.

Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Inc
At one point, Lou has her shooting (as in photographing) clay pigeons at a skeet range as a shooter (with a shotgun) blasts away. The goal for Tracie is to follow the pigeons with the camera upon release and capture them exploding to develop critical hand eye coordination. 

Eventually, Tracie meets with SI and is given the assignment which will determine whether she will land a job with SI - shooting two stunt pilots and their planes for a story that SI intends to run. Tracie is told to take some portrait shots of the pilots and then jump into a chopper to shoot the planes as they are flown. Afterwards, she is to pick a few images, meet with SI, and show her stuff, which she does.

Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Inc
Tracie's portraits are maligned by the SI guys but she pleasantly surprises them with a couple of aerial shots that they liked (and I thought were really good). In the end, she gets the job offer from SI, accepts, and has to leave her family behind in Alabama and relocate to New York City (she had remarried, so new hubbie had the home front covered). In doing some checking after the show, I learned that Tracie has since moved back to Alabama and is no longer on the staff of SI. She now freelances for SI in the Southeast.

It would be so easy to let the green eyed monster get the better of me by maligning the show, the episode, Tracie, and everything that goes with it. No doubt some "pro" sports photographers will do just that, resentful of somebody getting what they perceive to be an unfair, undeserved opportunity that they haven't gotten, or will never get, to hit the big time.

Not me. Don't misunderstand. Being published in SI has long been a dream of mine and I've come oh-so-close a couple of times but no cigar; working for SI is something I have never dared to dream. I've always wanted to win the lottery, too, but I don't grumble and snarl every week because somebody else gets lucky. 

No one ever promised any of us that life would be fair or that only the truly deserving would receive opportunities commensurate with our perceived skill, talent, or hard work. My dad taught me long ago that the trick in life is not to begrudge somebody else's good fortune but to do the best you can with whatever opportunities come your way. While he was alive, when life would throw me a curve, Papi would always say, "Viejo (his term of affection for me), never envy people who have more than you. Always look behind you at the people who have less than you and be grateful for what you have". Oh yes, he was a wise man.

Will it do me any good to chafe at the bit because Tracie was given an opportunity I would covet? Will that make my life any better? Will it bring me happiness or change anything in my life? No, no and no. So what will it accomplish to resent her or her good fortune? Instead of wasting emotional energy resenting Tracie, I prefer to be happy for her, that she was given a wonderful opportunity, and that she lived the dream.

It's a safe bet that I will never join the staff of SI, but you know what? That's OK. My wife still loves me, my kids still love me, and the dog still greets me every evening with a tail wag when I come home from work. I wake up in the morning thankful for all the blessings I have received in life and for the chance to live one more day doing what I love to do.

Hat's off to you, Tracie. You lived your dream. You go, girl.


Anonymous said...

what a crock of sh*t she was given a job to a mediocre at best photographer.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Do you mean, "They gave a job to a mediocre at best photographer?"

Randy Fox said...

I like your viewpoint Mike. Its a great one to have. Hey, we would ALL like to have that kind of opportunity but the truth is, most of us won't get it. We move on and do the best with what we have.
Your dad is a very wise man.

Pincince said...

You are big kind and wise man. Your dad did a great job.

David Saunders said...

I agree with your view Mike. We all have our dreams and I am happy Tracy was able to live them too. I also happy for her that she has a supportive family.

I know in my life right now if I was given that opportunity I would run to it and not look back. I have so much fun shooting photography whenever I can.

Xavier Davis said...

Another way to look at it is she made the best of an opportunity we all had. She applied for a reality show. It's not like we couldn't have done the same thing. Good for her, and good for you and your outlook.

Kevin said...

I watched this show, and - yeah, she got her "dream job" - but she needed some basic instruction on how to hold a camera. And I still can't believe they gave her a job because they liked one of her images.

Anonymous said...

She got a shot, she was hired, and I am not surprised that she is back home again, doing just freelancing work for SI.

While I would love a chance to work for SI as a photographer, I understand that I have limitations, both with the camera, and with where I want to live.

I have a job that I do love to do, and do photography as a hobby. Its my life balance that I like. I also would like to be working for myself, but was always too afraid of not making enough money to provide for my family.

Glad that she got her shot.

Mike I love your attitude....

Mike Olivella said...

"Anonymous said...
what a crock of sh*t she was given a job to a mediocre at best photographer."

I'm sure she's losing a lot of sleep over your thoughts on her talent, especially coming from someone who can't put a simple sentence together....

Go Share Your Faith said...

I'd like to see the show, it looks interesting.

Nice review.

Anonymous said...

It was a reality TV show, nothing more, nothing less. The show made a huge amount of money from sponsors. SI probably sold a few more magazines. Kurt made his money. I really don't think it was an example of real life. Heck, she even held the camera and focused like an amateur. It wasn't even fun to watch.

Bill-DC said...

Mike, I've learned so much since I found your blog. Thank you so much for all of your advice. I shoot for a web site that covers University of Maryland Football and Basketball and am learning every day. I make my mistakes, a lot of them, but I try to learn from them and do better my next game.

I love it when folks I work with succeed. Just three years ago I was begging a local high school for a chance to shoot a playoff football game. Now I have court and sideline access to the school I grew up rooting for. I'll have my moments if I keep working hard.

Thanks again for all of your posts.


Bryan LYnn said...

I enjoyed the show. Heck, I took the opportunity to tell my wife, "See honey, I DO need 4 cameras and all those lenses!!" I loved Lou's the comment on the previews, "Your not getting it, it's SPORTS I L L U S T R A T E D!!"

Great blog post Mike and I think we all need be thankful for what we have and keep pushing to get where we want to be. Just to have the opportunity to be critiqued by Peter Read Miller and Lou Jones would be awesome.

Anonymous said...

MIKE - I cannot say thank you enough for this article. I cannot tell you how many harsh articles I have read out there. Like I haven't worked hard my whole life to be good at everything I do, it breaks my heart to be torn down by the few. Again, thank you for the kudos even if I am not perfect. Thanks to others, I did the best with what I had and I am happy about it. Again, thank you everyone.