Women’s History Month Interview Series: Q&A With Sports Photographer, Jillian Souza
When sports fans scour the internet for the latest news on their favorite teams, one of the biggest draws is the wonderful photography that typically goes along with an article. Most people that regularly follow sports news will get to know the names of the beat writers and journalists that put the content together. However, many times, the photographer is the one that catches that great shot that draws you to the article, but nobody seems to mention that name.
Well, today, as we continue our trek through Women In Sports in celebration of Women’s History Month, we introduce you to one of the most talented and passionate sports photographers in the business. This young lady has traveled and lived from coast to coast but has found a home on the East, doing what she loves. Ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to Jillian Souza…
Gregg Snyder: Photography. How did you get into that?
Jillian Souza: I got my first point and shoot digital camera when I was living in Los Angeles. When I had days off, I would just take photos while I was just going about my day. I started taking sports photos for fun in 2005 with that point and shoot. Later, when I got laid off in 2009, I really put more time into it. I remember saving $850.00 to get my first SLR Digital Camera (Canon Rebel). I moved back to Rhode Island and enrolled at Rhode Island School of Design CE for Digital Photography. I went to Fenway a lot and took tons of photos to work on portfolio. That portfolio landed me a job with the Pawtucket Red Sox. The owner of the bar I used to work at, went to a networking event and met the Director of Security (Rick Medeiros). She mentioned me and the rest is history. I am entering my fourth season with the team.
GS: Were you active in sports growing up? What was it that kept your interest in sports?
JS: I played softball from 5 to 12, Martial Arts from 14 to 16, and ran cross country a little in high school. I was also interested in sports but my interest ran deep when I was living in Los Angeles away from family and friends. My Dad and I would have conversations over the phone about the New York Giants or the Red Sox. I went to a lot of games out there because I felt at home at the games.
GS: When did you realize sports photography was a career path you wanted to pursue?
In April 2009, it was Easter Sunday. I had front row behind home plate seats at Angels Stadium. I paid $178 for the seat. I wanted to be as close as possible to photograph the game. The Red Sox were playing against the Angels. Josh Beckett was on the mound for the Red Sox and Bobby Abreu was up to bat. Next thing I know benches cleared. I was taking photos and I remember saying “This is what I want to do.” That’s the moment I moved back home and enrolled at RISD.
GS: Tell us about your first experience as a credentialed photographer at a sporting event…
JS: September 2011, Wakefield’s 200th win. I was there to photograph the PawSox players that were called up on September 1st. I just remember being in awe. Everyone in Lower Third Camera/Photo pit was so welcoming and a pleasure to be around. I just couldn’t believe the first Red Sox game I shot was an important moment in a player’s career. I felt fortunate. I do every game I shoot.
GS: On game day, you arrive at the ballpark…take us through your typical day covering a game.
JS: I try to get to McCoy Stadium 1 ½ hour to ½ hour before the game. It all depends if I’m working my other job that day. First thing I usually shoot is a photo for the team’s Instagram. Whether it is of the grounds crew putting the finishing touches on the logo on the mound or candid’s of the players, coaches, mascots or the fans. It’s the first thing I do. I also try to do a quick Vine of players in the dugout, of the fans or of the pitcher warming in the bullpen. I started doing that end of last season. So I’m excited to be more creative with that APP. I always make sure I’m on the home dugout side prior to first pitch. I like to shoot from that angle the two innings then I move to the visitor’s side. This depends if the pitcher is RHP or LHP. If it’s a lefty starting, I start from the visitor’s dugout. Usually by the fourth inning I try to send a few photos of the pitcher or any good action I may have caught in to the team and upload something to the instagram. If I don’t by the fourth, I do by the seventh inning. After the fourth inning I’m usually out of the dugouts and somewhere around McCoy getting different angles. I love having that freedom to move around and be creative with capturing the game. I try to get back to the dugouts by the 8th to get photos of the relief pitchers. As soon as the game ends, I try to get photos of the team that won or reactions from the team that loss. Then I go do quick edits and send in at least 20 to 30 shots to the team. That’s pretty much it.
GS: Being in a field still dominated mostly by men, have you experienced any difficulties as a female sports photographer?
JS: Nope not at all. Everyone I’ve met, whether male or female, has been awesome.
GS: What feelings went through your mind the first time you saw one of your images published by a well-known media outlet?
JS: I was overjoyed. I get excited every time I see one of my photos used whether for publication, website, baseball cards, enlarged canvased photos in the clubhouse..etc. I can’t help but smile.
GS: Baseball seems to be your main focus and passion. Do you plan on pursuing photography in other major sports as well?
JS: Yes. I’ve been shooting other sports this past year.
GS: Is there one particular photo you’ve taken that you are most proud of?
JS: There have been so many. From Mariano Rivera’s last All Star Game to Will Middlebrooks running in the downpour to third. Each photo has a meaning whether is weathering a storm or taking in your last All Star game..it just those rare moments you witness and being able to make it timeless with one hit of the shutter is just amazing..
GS: Which athlete do you enjoy photographing the most and why?
JS: Not one in particular. Each player brings something different to the game. That’s why I love being able to capture all aspects of each player. Always something different.
GS: Would you like to see more women get involved in sports photography, or is that not something you are concerned about?
JS: The more the merrier. Whether male or female, chase after the dream. It’s yours to own.
GS: Five years from now, where do you see yourself and/or your business?
JS: I see myself being more involved in sports in a higher level and taking on more than just photographing the game.
GS: Obviously you are comfortable behind the camera, but have you ever done any work from the other side?
JS: Yes I have. I think it’s important for a photographer to go in front of the lens. I think it helps direct and relate to people you’re shooting. The subject knowing you’ve been in their shoes, makes them feel more comfortable with you photographing them.
GS: Last question, we are asking all participants this one. If you were to host a dinner with three women in sports (past or present), who would they be and why?
JS: Pat Summit, Serena Williams and Sue Falsone. Pat Summit because of the obvious. She is an inspiration and light. Her words always echo to me in trying times “Keep on Keeping on.” I admire her strength during her hard times, her dedication to Tennessee when she coached and really being a great role model for women in sports. Serena Williams because she is always in the mix. She has always stayed true to her game and is one of the fierce female competitors out there. Sue Falsone is the first Head Athletic Trainer in Major professional sports leagues. She is the head trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I just think she is someone people need to know more about. I find her to be inspiring. That there is no mold. If there is break it. Just like she did.
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