Even without sports, photographers’ creativity still runs high


Ryan Gilroy

The inside of Wintrust Arena is seen after a DePaul basketball game on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

We’ve seen the coronavirus shut down sports as we know it – yet, for the people who capture those split-second moments during those games, there is still a dire need to create.

Photographers around the country have effectively been stripped of work since mid-March, leaving many questions unanswered for when they can get back on the sidelines again. But when games do come back, what will that look like? 

“The assumption is that so many things are going to be different,” said Stacy Revere, a freelance photographer based in Milwaukee. “But it’s hard because you don’t know what things are going to look like.”

Revere has been freelancing for Getty Images Sport since 2011 and has traveled around the country for numerous assignments covering the NBA, Major League Baseball and the Olympics. Yet when the pandemic began making headlines back in March, that all changed.

“There’s been nothing,” Revere said. “There’s been a few news items around, but there’s been no assignments because there’s been no sports.”

Like for Revere, the same impact was felt by Ross Dettman, the team photographer for the Chicago Wolves, an American Hockey League affiliate to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. Dettman has been the Wolves’ team photographer since the organization was founded in 1994, while also primarily doing freelance work for New Balance. 

On March 11, the same night that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus, Dettman was about to leave for an assignment when it was eventually struck down.

“It was March 11 and I was scheduled to leave [on] the twelfth for a New Balance assignment – I was scheduled to be in New York,” Dettman said. “I’m ready to go and then New Balance reaches out to me and says, ‘Hey, we’re done. Nothing’s happening, we’re shutting it down, don’t bother coming to New York.’”

Later, the domino effect made its way across other sports leagues around the country as they began to put their respective seasons on hold. But exactly two months later on May 11, the AHL announced it would not finish the 2019-20 season, as they stated it was no longer feasible to complete given the current state of the sports world. Instead, they’ve now begun to focus on the 2020-21 season rather than delaying a return.

“We are very grateful to the National Hockey League and its teams for their support and leadership in navigating through the challenges faced over the past two months,” the statement reads. “The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans and all of their families, and we all look forward to returning to our arenas in 2020-21.”

Courtesy of Stacy Revere

Granted, there was some concern about the future and what work is available. Revere had already encountered a scenario like this before, when Hurricane Katrina hit his home in New Orleans back in 2005.

“I think I immediately flipped back into post-Katrina mode – this is my second apocalypse,” Revere said. “I didn’t panic, I didn’t get too stressed about it because after the hurricane and things were destroyed, it does no good to panic because I’ve already been down that road. It’s hard because you automatically realize ‘Oh, I just lost a lot of money.’ Me worrying about it is not going to bring those assignments back.” 

Dettman echoed a similar response.

“I would try to remind people where its, ‘Look, I try to focus on the stuff I can control – and what I can’t control is people’s responses to the situation,’” Dettman said. “What I can control is my response to the situation.”

Despite all of this, photographers have not let their creativity dull with what’s going on. For both Revere and Dettman, they’ve begun working on new projects that spark their interests, allowing themselves to explore artistically with the free time they now have.

Now two and a half months later since that infamous day in March, photos continue to be produced. For Revere, he was inspired by one of his colleagues to create portraits of medical workers currently fighting the virus to showcase what they’ve sacrificed to help those in need. 

“I was talking to one of my buddies and his neighbor was a nurse – he made her portrait one night and just put up a little story about her, we talked about it and I said ‘Man, that’s a great idea,’” Revere said. “People often get overlooked. It’s easy to say, ‘We’re the front line workers’ – and that’s great and I think most people believe that – it’s just that you want to get to know them as well. It’s good to have a name and a face and a story, and that’s how it came to be.”

As of Wednesday, 1,827,425 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., including 25,508 cases in Minnesota alone, according to the CDC. Since Revere created his first portrait on April 9, he’s profiled the stories of more than two dozen nurses, doctors and other medical workers in and around Milwaukee. You can view those stories on his Instagram profile here.

Dettman – even before the pandemic started – has continued taking photos of downtown Chicago, and is currently exploring other artistic ideas that he never pursued before the pandemic took place.

“It’s a classic when one door closes another door opens, and so I’m thinking in those terms,” Dettman said. “It was an opportunity to say, ‘Okay, the low-hanging fruit for me has been the things I’ve been doing, what if those things were taken away from me and never came back?’ And that’s kind of the mindset that I’m in. I’m not looking at that like, ‘Oh my gosh this is horrible,’ I’m actually looking at that as, what cool opportunities is this situation possibly presenting to me?”

Courtesy of Ross Dettman

Ever since the virus made its way to Chicago, one of the hardest hit cities in the country, it has allowed Dettman to explore more of the city in a strange way. While the feeling of being in the city has diminished, the objective hasn’t changed. You can view those photos on his Instagram profile here.

“I’m exploring the city, seeing it in different ways and things I’ve never done before, and just being open to the possibility of new opportunities that I had never considered,” Dettman said. “It’s kind of exciting in a weird way.” 

For now, there’s no clear answer when things will go back to normal. But for people like Revere and Dettman, it hasn’t held them back from doing what they love. Seeing and creating those visuals allows for a new perspective, both of whom have never encountered before.

“It’s trying to figure out what’s next or what it’s gonna look like when this all comes back,” Revere said. “But, I think the ability to compartmentalize that and then also say ‘Well, I need to make sure that when this comes back that I’m able to make the best of it’ – to take this bad situation and reinvent myself as for as how I approach photography, how I approach different games, and just try different things just to keep a fresh look.”