In honor of the upcoming Rome Masters, self-diagnosed Rogerholic, photographer and GTT contributing writer Kathy Woodward is interviewing artistic Roger Federer fans who use the tennis Maestro as Muse. Today Kathy looks at a different side of Federer – and herself – in the explosive color and dramatic contrasts of her own digital photography. Our gratitude to Kathy for recruiting the artists and our thanks to the artists for sharing their work. Enjoy! -F.F.
Fashion photography was always my preference in the photographic arts. The simple and stark work of Irving Penn is my favorite style. While working in the fashion industry in Southern California for the last fifteen years, my vintage shoe collection was my prefered subject matter for photography. I picked up my first camera (a Canon Sure Shot) at seventeen to document my overseas experience in Sweden as a foreign exchange student and loved making scrapbooks of my memories in college. The creative arts run in my family as my mother is a watercolor artist who competes in shows and has a piece in a local museum. My dad’s hobby of photography interested me more as a teen when I helped out in his darkroom. (OK, here I go answering my own interview questions which turned out to be tough and very insightful to answer!)
Q: Do you create Roger’s likeness in any other media?
Kathy: No, I once attempted to do a really abstract pencil drawing. I didn’t spend much time on it. If I took some drawing classes maybe I could do something decent only in an abstract and graphic looking style. I would never attempt to draw like Chloe!
Q: Why do you prefer photography?
Kathy: I like capturing moments. You may see the same moment differently in a photograph than how you saw it when actually happened. It’s tough to remember moments watching Roger play because the sport of tennis is so fast… it happens in a flash. When I create art out of an action photo it transforms from a flash of movement into a still work of art. When I photograph Roger I use a Nikon Cool-pix P80. Once I get a lot of pictures, say a hundred, then I have to go back and see if I got any quality shots. Most of the time I don’t ( I’m lucky if he lands in the frame!) which gives me lots of material to create with giving me more opportunities to create a totally different image.
Q: How long does it typically take to edit a photo?
Kathy: It can take up to a half hour just to find a photo that has potential because my files of Roger photos are so large. I really just experiment and goof around with the special effects, color, exposure etc. so I really can’t say, maybe a half hour or more. At times I can edit one then decide to change it into something different when I find a new special effect. Recently I found a way to make the photo look embossed in a rich brown color. It make the picture look like a chocolate bar! (Above) I need to pitch that idea to Lindt!
Q: Describe what it was like the first time you saw Roger play.
Kathy: I was astounded. It seemed like he won every point. Total domination. His controlled aggression, ballet like movement…his one handed backhand is so fluid. In 2007 I saw him play live for the first time. I was awe struck and have been ever since.
Q: How did the experience of seeing him play live enhance your work?
Kathy: First of all you only get a sense of how handsome he his until you seem him up-close in person. His features are even more striking. Also, his movement is even more remarkable up close so when I am working on an action shot I try to alter it to form a big contrast between his body and the court to emphasize his quick movements.
Q: Why is Roger your preferred subject?
Kathy: I love history and to have the opportunity to watch Roger play live and photograph him, the greatest player of all time, in action is just a privilege in my opinion. No other player moves like he does. At first I focused on his movement on court. The first photos I took of him were from the nose bleed seats. It was interesting because I thought they would be terrible, so blurry. The match was late afternoon so there was a diagonal shadow across the court which I really had fun with when I edited the digital photos. I tried to have the colors in the shadows from the sun compliment the shadows made by his movement on court. Also, he’s truly an artist’s ideal subject. He looks so peaceful when photographed in action which seems like a total contradiction because he’s always in motion. He’s extremely photogenic and I love his profile. It’s fun to experiment with shadows on his face.
Q: What specifically about his features are appealing to photograph?
Kathy: He has a strong jaw line, heavy brows and THAT hair. Those are the three most striking features to work with in an abstract way. Overall, he’s just beautiful in a very dramatic, almost exotic way. I love how his expressions are so extreme. When he is focused and serious he looks classically handsome. Then a smile breaks out and he looks very boyish with those full cheeks. That’s the fun part. I can have fun with his personality with the editing. He’s very serious during practices so when I get a smile I hope it is something I can work with.
Q: If Roger was an artist what kind of artist would he be?
Kathy: He would be a painter in the style of Abstract Expressionism. I think of Jackson Pollack the American from the late forties and fifties. Roger’s canvas would of course be the court. His brush strokes made with his racquet would create wide, long splatters of paint. A sort of action painting where interpretations of his game are expressed. Different colors could be different shots. Blue for his backhand, yellow for an ace. The method itself is very vigorous almost violent. His art would be a controlled chaos of direction and pattern that he would construct as he would a winning point.
Q: Does Roger have any of your photographs?
Kathy: Yes, two and Mirka has one of my father’s he took in Indian Wells in 2008. It was so stunning I just had to send it to her framed in a box wrapped up for a princess!
Q: How do you choose what to create from a photo?
Kathy: I choose the best possible photo looking I can crop to clean up the background so he is the focus. If he is playing on court I may have to crop out a linesman for example. Then I look at lighting and which of his features I can play up. For instance if there are extreme shadows across a close-up of his face that is a good shot to wash out into black and white then apply a color wash. Most of the time I just goof around with special effects and see what happens. I could never duplicate any photos since I’d never remember the process!
Q: Explain how Roger’s game inspires you in your work?
Kathy: Roger plays like an artist. His approach to his sport comes from his soul which I believe is where artists draw from to create their work. He moves like a dancer, is a creative shot maker and does it all so elegantly. I’ve never seen a sportsman look so beautiful in action. His mannerisms are elegant like the way he holds his left hand during a backhand stroke. He’s just so graceful and fluid in a fast moving sport. I try to change his look from elegant and classic to explosive and colorful. Overall he inspired me to experiment with making my poor quality photos into art. I never had that interest until I saw him play live.
By Kathy Woodward.