Wednesday, November 27, 2013

French photographer shoots U.S. sports for personal project

French resident and 'sports fanatic' Thomas Savoja wearing his newly purchased BG stocking cap. (Photo by Lori King)
Part 2/2:
This is a continuation of a question & answer interview with French sports photographer Thomas Savoja. To read his answers to the first two questions, please scroll down to the next blog post.

Q: You mentioned you were doing a personal project here in America. What is your project, and why are you doing it?  
A: I am a guy driven by passions. I love traveling. I love sport. I love writing and telling stories and obviously I love photography. So I have found out a way to conciliate all these passions in a single project, which is kind of Sport Road trip concept I am experiencing right now. The idea is to travel in the U.S. off the beaten track, attending sporting events at every possible stage (HS, college and pro) - to take pictures of the games and what is around. Then I will write illustrated articles about what I have seen and experienced; about the big and little stories behind the games; and ultimately I will share these experiences through various media with my fellow countrymen who have the same kind of interest but cannot travel for various reason.

This is quite a lot of work and investment as I am doing everything from the credential management to the logistic aspects to the photo shooting and editing to the writing and the publication online or on paper magazine. But this is a great pleasure at the same time at every level of the process.
Q: Any other insights you'd like to share?
A: I think I have now built through the years a strong relationship with your country. Each time I am traveling here, I am feeling pretty well, somehow like home. But like in every passionate relationship, there have been obviously ups and downs. I travel first in the U.S. with my family when I was a teenage in 1985. I can still remember each and every moment of this trip on the East Coast. Growing up as a young adult I take my distance with America maybe because some aspect of your society have been difficult for me to understand. Then in my late 30s come back to my teenage love - and photo and sports play a role in that.

Maybe my Sport Road trip idea will give the idea to replicate this principle in France and organize your own trip to discover my country and shoot typical French sporting events. If so, please get in touch with me. I will be delighted to help you!
To view his American sports photo gallery:

Dear Thomas:
   I plan to take my family to Europe, including Paris, in about two years. When I do I will look you up! Maybe I'll get lucky and you'll have a contest for me to help judge then. 
   It was nice meeting you, and good luck with your Sport Road trip idea!
Sincerely, Lori

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Q&A #1: French photographer shoots U.S. sports on his own

 Part 1/2:
At Toledo area sporting events, particularly college games, we local photogs can spot an unfamiliar face in the press box pretty quickly. We assume the 'other' guy is from the opposing team. But remember what happens when you assume...
  I was shooting a BGSU football game last month and there was a young guy I didn't recognize, so I asked him where he was from. In a very distinguishable French accent, Thomas Savoja said he was from France. I then asked him why he was at BGSU. Turns out he's an engineer traveling in the United States for a few weeks to document American sports.    
  Interesting, right? So I got his business card and shot him an email with a few questions that my inquiring mind wanted to know. 
  Because his responses were a bit lengthy, I will break the interview up into two parts. He also agreed to send a few of his photos, and I will share them when I get them.
   I hope you find his verbatim answers as enlightening as I did.
Paris sports photographer and engineer Thomas Savoja. (Photo by Lori King)
Q: It says on your business card that you're a sports photographer from Paris, France. What is your photography background? 
A: Well, you always have to be careful with what the business cards says ;-) As far as I am concerned, my initial background is actually engineering and even if photography has always been part of my life, I never consider it as a real business. This means this is not my primary job but more an additional activity. You know, this is very challenging in France to start a serious business from photography itself so I have tried to develop a more global approach where photo is just a side.
My father brought me my first camera when I was eight and since that time, I never really stopped shooting. Urban landscapes were my primary focus. Then I fell in love with Asia, which offers so many picturesque places! This has given me many opportunities to spend time wandering out there with a backpack and a camera. My best souvenirs are probably the Bagan plain in Myanmar, the Thar Desert in Rajasthan and the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.
I came to action shooting relatively late and even if the material has a predominant role there, this is really an area where I enjoy permanently improving my skills. Why this sudden interest for shooting sport? This is mainly because I am myself a sport fanatic. I was a tennis player for 30 years and I am still playing soccer in a French Federation League each Saturday. I started shooting my team and step by step I come to shoot more important events.
My focus when I shoot sports is obviously to be able to catch the ultimate moment of action. This is a nice quest but to be honest, I am always frustrated to miss nice shoot opportunities because of a bad choice of positioning or a lack of concentration. Luck is also a key factor in this area.
In Europe, I shoot every kind of sports even if I tend to specialize myself in American sports (Yes US Football is also played in Europe). Otherwise, it goes from soccer to rugby, handball, volley ball, ice and field hockey but also tennis, boxing, fencing, track and field, and so many others.
Each year in France I am organizing a contest for the Best Football picture of the year. The winner is announced at the halftime of the French championship final and I have the chance to get some nice jurors coming from Sport Photojournalism in the US. Maybe you can be a member of the Jury for this year's contest!
Q: How do you compare European sports to American sports? What are a few major differences and similarities?    
A: That’s a good question. I think that the main difference is the position sport occupies in the society. If I look at the way French society approaches sport, it is actually very far from a center of interest. I would even say that a certain elite has traditionally contempt for Sport in my country. Here in the US, this is really something central in people’s life. For instance, I am absolutely fascinated by the way sport is treated in High School. This is so impressive compared to what we are doing in France. I would have loved to be part of this!
I am also very enthusiastic about college sports despite recent scandals that may have tarnished a little bit the model. I had the opportunity to discover many campuses through the country and I have been very excited about the spirit there and values behind sport.
On the other end, sport seems also one of the main entertainment drivers for people here. In the US, when you are an adult, it seems almost exclusively considered as an entertainment or a business. In Europe this is more an activity than many people want to practice by themselves on top of looking at it on the TV. My impression is that in the US, when you are an adult it is very difficult to play sport as an amateur but maybe I am wrong.
The most popular sport in France is obviously soccer, even if the current image of the national team is extremely bad because of the behavior of some players which have been very selfish and unprofessional these recent years. This is there a difference with the American sports where college is often a mandatory step before turning pro. In Europe, uneducated young kids coming from poor family background are making it to the pros without education and it may become a problem for them to manage the transition.
The behavior of the fans is also totally different in Europe. Here they are much more “hardcore” in the sense that they are coming to the stadium not for the fun of it but really to cheer and support their team. The good think is that atmosphere may be crazy, the bad is that there is too often problems inside stadiums which lead to unsecured atmosphere.
If I take, for the example of Paris Saint Germain my favorite soccer team I am rooting for since I am a kid, 2 guys died in our stadium the last 10 years because of violence. This is not acceptable. The new owners have taken measure to change behavior even if the direct consequence is that the noise and ambiance in the stadium is much more quiet that in the past. A lot of core fans complain about that but security has no price.

Follow Thomas on Twitter: @tomasino22
View Thomas' American sports photo gallery:

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Owens Outlook newspaper: Then, now and the future

This is the Prezi presentation I recently did on the state of the Owens Outlook newspaper. Revamping the Owens Outlook is a work in progress, and we have lots and lots of work to do! As the new adviser, it's my job to make sure this work gets done, but at least I'm not alone. We have a small staff who are as committed as I am. When Owens lost the print edition of The Outlook about 4 years ago, the online newspaper went out of sight and out of mind. I think it's safe to say more than half, if not most, of the students/faculty/staff at Owens have no idea we have an online newspaper! What a shame! So, it's my ultimate goal to try and change that. I want the student staff of The Outlook to own it, and be proud of it. But they can't possibly do that without knowing what they are doing. So, let the training begin. Here's my adviser manifesto:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Intro to PJ students practice what they've been preached

   Scholastic photojournalists – it’s finally time for you to practice what I’ve been preaching for the past two months.
   You, as Intro to PJ students, have prepped for this moment by doing the following assignments:
1.     First, you learned about social media, and then set up your social media accounts with Blogger and Twitter.
2.     Then you learned what news is. You studied an issue of the Toledo Blade, and had to indentify the many parts that make up a newspaper - like the flag, jumpline and pullout quote. You also viewed Poynter Institute’s What is News NewsU tutorial.
3.     Next up: Ethics, law, copyright and the First Amendment lessons, which included learning the NPPA Code of Ethics and taking the SPLC First Amendment quiz.
4.     To break up the book learning, you got to shoot an assignment with your cell phone cameras.
5.     You also learned how to write concise, accurate photo captions. In this block of instruction you were introduced to the AP Stylebook. By the way, I think it’s very cool that the AP has a paid service to their style quizzes, which you tackled together as a team.
6.     And lastly, we went over your camera controls once again. Sure, most of you have already taken B&W 1, Digital 1 and Color Photography, but unless you shoot every single day, figuring out equivalent exposures can get a little rusty.
   This week you finally get to shoot your first real photojournalism assignment – features. So, get out there and knock on your beat’s door and give them the coverage it deserves! Don't forget to let them know they can then read all about it on your blogs!

Below is a screen grab by Intro 2 PJ student Parth Pitroda. It's his homework assignment on cell phone photography.
    I find it interesting that Parth believes cell phone cameras are substandard to DSLR photography. Sure, the cheaper phones certainly are, but he has an iPhone!
Can you really tell that these two photos are from a cell phone? I can't.
Parth's blog post on cell phone photography.