On a warm July evening in 2013, the Philadelphia Phillies played the Washington Nationals, but some of the best action took place between innings. Assigned by Bloomberg Businessweek, Christopher Leaman photographed one of professional sports’ most beloved mascots, the Phillie Phanatic. The original magazine story was scrapped earlier that morning, but the magazine asked Leaman to follow through with the photoshoot for a possible new story to run at the start of the 2014 baseball season. “That’s the nature of our job,” Leaman told PDN via email. However, a new story was never written and therefore these images were never published in the magazine. Instead, Leaman proudly features the images on his website. With today being Major League Baseball‘s official opening day, we asked Leaman to tell us about the shoot.
PDN: The Phanatic is as much a celebrity as the players, but it looks like you had an all-access pass?
Christopher Leaman: The Phanatic absolutely is a huge celebrity (especially with how bad the Phillies are these days), but the organization was extremely hands-off. Many shoots have PR flacks babysitting you the whole time, but the Phillies folks let me roam and shoot. As long as I didn’t shoot him getting into or out of the costume, I could shoot anything I wanted, as long as I could keep up. He shreds around pretty hard on that four-wheeler. [Slide 6].
PDN: You did a lot of running around, it seems. What did you shoot with? Did you have an assistant?
CL: I did a ton of running. He only goes out three times during the game—batting practice, the 2nd or 3rd inning, and then the 7th inning stretch. Anything I was hoping to get I had to get during those windows. He rides his four-wheeler all over, then climbs all over the stands and up on the dugout, so it was tough keeping up. I definitely should have had an assistant; I just had a couple of camera’s with me—a Canon SLR on one shoulder and Fuji rangefinder on the other.
PDN: What’s the room he’s in (looks like a closet or storage space?) [Slide 7]
CL: That is his prop room. It’s right off of his dressing room and the place where he keeps all his stuff. He’s got giant comical dumbells in there, his t-shirt cannon [Slide 6], a boombox, and a bunch of costumes and stuff he wears for his different bits.
PDN: What else goes into doing a “day-in-the-life” shoot?
CL: [These] shoots are funny, because you have very little control over what you get to photograph. Maybe you can do some scouting or pre-production, but mostly you have to be quick on your feet and hope that some interesting things present themselves to you. So much of making these stories interesting is in the editing process. I also hate shooting digital on these types of stories because I’m constantly tempted to check the back of the camera to see if I got it, where as if it was film you’d just keep shooting.