“Behind the lens”
by @chefjaynutt -Argos Admiral writer
When Jeffrey Orridge was announced as the new commissioner of the CFL one of his stated priorities was to bring the league into modern times through a stronger social media presence. Most of the league’s teams have followed suit with better websites, interactive ticket sites, and strong Twitter accounts. The Argos have led the charge this season by engaging the services of photographer Johany Jutras. While she’s easily recognized on the sidelines by her long blonde ponytail, it’s the impact of her photos that have made her one of the best off-season acquisitions by the Argos marketing team.
In a medium that places such a restriction on space, Jutras’ pictures are worth far more than the allotted thousand words (or 140 characters). For me, her images bring to mind the storytelling abilities of graphic novels and comic books. Her panoramic shots bring to life the theatre of the stadium. It sets the stage for the battle. They tell a narrative of weather, blue sky, adrenaline of fighter jets, the roar of the crowd, and the sound of high-performance athletes crashing together at high speed.
Jutras seems to excel in portraying the sheer athleticism of the players on the field. Like a superhero portrait, you can see their musculature in fine detail. You can see the dirt, the blood, the determination and fierce will of men putting everything on the line. You can see the focus of a player squinting through the rain, not allowing the elements to dictate what can and cannot happen on this play, on this day.
One of my favourite aspects of her photography, and I think it’s missing from so much work in today’s social media world, is the showcase of joy in the game of football. Players celebrating, sharing moments, the moments that build a team. Her shots of players sharing moments with fans, fans sharing moments with friends and strangers, the moments that build a fan base into a culture.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Jutras before a recent game. In person she’s charming and energetic, with her passion for the game coming through our conversation. Born in small-town Quebec, and currently a resident of Toronto and Montreal, she told me of the challenges of being a free-lance photographer. We spoke of her commitment to learning the job. I was surprised to find out she was self-taught. She used to take pictures of her brothers playing football and discovered she had a knack for it. She ventured in to doing it on demand and in 2015 took a huge leap of faith in her own abilities when she undertook a massive project in chasing her dream.
She sold everything she owned, including her own cameras, and criss-crossed the country with sponsorship equipment in hand and created her book “Our League, Our Country.” The book is filled with images of teams, players, stadiums and their fans as well as stories from iconic CFL sportswriters from each city. She slept on couches, ate too much fast food, and put everything she had into getting the work done. At the final stages, preparing to go into production of the book she was helped by what she described as an “angel investor” to get the project to the finish line. The book recently went into second printing and will probably become a Canadian best-seller later this year, most likely during Grey Cup week.
We laughed about the similarity in our careers. I’m a chef that likes to take pictures with my cell phone. She’s a photographer that likes good food. Both of us hear the comments that equate our career achievements linked to our equipment; “Well I imagine anyone could take those pictures with a good camera…” or “I could cook with a kitchen like that.” The truth is, some people have innate skills, an eye for framing a picture, or a palate for a flavour. In reality, it’s repetition and practice that polish those skills until they shine. Jutras told me she takes between 1200-2000 pictures a game. She’s worked about 30 games so far this season. Conservatively, at 1500 shots a game, that’s 45000 pictures at games alone.
Some of my favourite shots of hers are the ones from the highest spot in the stadium looking down at the field and the crowd. It makes me feel as if I’m the one behind the camera, I see what she sees. It confirms my own love for comic books, the feeling of being both the narrator and the reader and seeing the story unfold one frame at time. As an Argos fan, I’m glad she’s on our side of the lens.
You can find Jutras and her work on her website http://www.johanyjutras.com/index
You can order her book here: www.theCFLbook.ca
You can follow her on twitter @johanyjutras
Her first name is pronounced “Jo-aa-nee” with a light French accent.
If you use her work, or any photographer’s photos in a post, please credit them. All photographs in this piece were taken by Johany Jutras on behalf of the Toronto Argonauts, except where noted. See watermarks.