Canadian-born photographer Stephanie Noritz lives and works in New York where she freelances for the likes of Monocle, Bloomberg Businessweek, Dazed and Confused and New York Magazine amongst others. Her imagery is defined by sharp lighting, relaxed atmosphere and – most importantly – a youthful subject matter – whether that’s kids skating vert ramps or fast-paced little league games.
We came across two of her personal projects the other day that deal specifically with a high school in Brooklyn, documenting their baseball and football teams respectively in a manner that reveals more than simply the action of sport. In fact the Automotive HS series is specifically concerned with moments of stillness instead of action, revealing a sensitivity in players usually renowned for their toughness.
We caught up with Stephanie to find out more about the process of making these photos and what attracted her to photography in the first place…
How long have you been taking photos?
I grew up with art. I always loved it. It began with drawing, then painting, and photography fell into the mix around the time I applied to college. I started taking pictures in my first year at Ryerson University, Toronto, in the fall of 2002.
What was your first motivation to pick up a camera?
Getting closer to the things I found interesting and beautiful. Having a camera allowed me access to certain things I was otherwise too shy to approach on my own.
A lot of your imagery seems quintessentially American, is that a conscious decision or simply the result of your surroundings?
I believe it’s been a little bit of both. I grew up in the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio, but was born in Toronto to Ecuadorian parents and I returned to Toronto after high school. There has always been this natural curiosity about American culture that I always felt somewhat removed from.
What attracted you to shoot the sports teams at Automotive HS?
I live close to the high school and would often catch them practicing as I passed by. I was drawn to the physicality and camaraderie between the boys. Working together as a pack, their practices mimic organised military-style work ethic. Their football team in particular has always been known as the underdogs because they don’t have a home field. They gather five times a week after school to practice in the public park across the street. Without their own field, they are forced to play home games at their high school rivals’ grounds a mile away.
There’s a stereotypical idea of high school sports teams presented to the rest of the world in American cinema, is that what it’s really like?
There is a lot of heroism portrayed in movies, but there are just as many moments of vulnerability and fragility between these young players. They can be very hard on themselves and each other but they are still trying to figure themselves out; who they are, what they want to become.
You seems as concerned with the monuments of stillness as much as the action in these images. Why is that?
I’m interested in the young men that make up the players. I want to find out more about who they are. I look for those moments that are quiet and intimate as a way to understand them better.
Tell us a good story from your time on these shoots.
On one of the last football games of the year several of the players from Automotive made it into the Brooklyn All Star game, which also happened to fall on the day of a huge snowstorm. The field was so slippery they were sliding everywhere and at a certain point they realised that they were just going to have fun with it, so all the players laid down on the field and made snow angels.
What are you working on now?
Various personal and editorial shoots. Football conditioning begins again this Sunday so I’m looking forward to the new season and pushing the project further. I actually have a zine published by Oranbeg Press with the Automotive High School Football and Baseball work that will be officially released in the fall.