On Seeing, A Journal #263
“The Shape of the NFL” – Matt Judon
July 10, 2018
In a new and ongoing project, I am inviting athletes to my studio who
play the many various positions on NFL teams. I want to demonstrate the
physical characteristics that make them so perfectly suited to excel at
their specialized positions.
One player who arrived recently for a series of portraits is Matt Judon,
a 26-year-old linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens from Baton Rouge,
Louisiana. Judon, at 6’3,” 262 pounds, is a prime example of what it
takes to play one of the most demanding positions in football.
Though I am in the early stages of my project, I have worked with many
professional football players in previous projects – for my book
ATHLETE, for advertising shoots, for editorial shoots for Sports
Illustrated and ESPN Magazines. In each case, there were specific goals
for the photographs, but the common thread was always to make pictures
as powerful and intriguing as the athletes themselves, and that goal
continues with the new images.
As with the beginning of so many other projects, I find that I have too
many ideas for this new adventure. Not, perhaps, the worst problem to
have, but working through them to arrive at images that really work is a
problem nevertheless. But the solution is to explore everything I
possibly can with the amount of time (and patience) a football player
can give me. With each shoot, the direction of the project becomes
clearer to me.
The elements I’m working with so far are:
1. A standing photograph of each player.
For the standing images, my experience is extensive; I’ve done a few.
Here are three:
A line up of professional champion boxers in from each weight class—for
my book “AT THE FIGHTS: Inside the world of Professional Boxing.“ More
on this book here.
Male athletes from many different Olympic sports…
I hope that this new project will yield
visual line-ups, one of 11 players on the offense and 11 on defense.
(I’ll think about special teams later.)
instance this, for defense…many blanks that need filling in. Judon, in
the center, is the first defensive player on this photographic dream
team—this is only a “first” draft.
2. A series of images studying the
musculoskeletal details for each player to show how a particular
physique suits a given position.
3. A formal portrait.
4. An image that demonstrates the specialized movements required for the player’s particular position
arrived with his agent, Jerard Roggio, who works with the well-known
and respected agent, Jonathan Perzley of SportStars. Perzley brought two
other players that day (Chris Conley of the Kansas City Chiefs, and
Demarious Randall of the Cleveland Browns) and another of his agents,
Jamie Mullen. Also at the shoot was McKenzie Fox, who does social media
for the NFL and spent the day posting videos of the three players to
The Ravens player is big man, not surprising for a pro-linebacker. As
with most of the professional athletes I’ve worked with, he was focused,
helpful, cooperative and a lot of fun to have in the studio. I have
observed and written previously that if an athlete is basically
uncooperative and difficult to work with, they rarely make it to the top
levels of their sport. To succeed, an athlete needs to be coachable,
correctable, and willing to yield to a director. And so, in almost
every case, the accomplished professional athletes have taken my
direction in the spirit of collaboration, in order to get the best
result possible – the same attitude they bring to their sport
Some of the images I made with Judon:
I made a number of portraits.
I made this one for him—I said, “let’s make an image of you for those who love you.” It’s obvious he both understood and let go.
I made this one for me, for the project.
Finally, we discussed what his movements as a linebacker were in a game.
Essentially, he is there to wreak destruction, to force large offensive
lineman out of the way in order to tackle a runner, block a pass or take
down a quarterback.