How I Got the Photo – Darren Calabrese

2016 NPOY PICTURE STORY FEATURE, Finalist – CrossFit athlete Lindsay Hilton. (Darren Calabrese)

The project with Lindsay Hilton began after I had seen a local story about one of her workout videos going viral. That story was a straightforward news item, but I was interested in learning more about her as a person rather than just an athlete. Also, I was keeping an eye out for something to work on that would keep me in/near Halifax as my wife and I were expecting the birth of our second child.

I simply e-mailed Lindsay to introduce myself with a link to my work. I asked if she wanted to go for coffee to see if she had any interest in working with me. I was straightforward with her about how I wanted to tell her story – I told her in order to tell it properly, I wanted to be there when she laughed, cried, failed, succeeded, etc. She didn’t hesitate in agreeing.

I shot the series over a span of five or six months. At first, I rarely shot any pictures. I would show up at the gym with just one body and a lens, but would just chat with her and the coach/gym owner. I would help with the weights sometimes and every once in a while I would jump in and try the same workout or exercise out of curiosity.

Eventually I started shooting the workouts a bit more thoroughly until we built a pretty good rapport and moved to shooting her outside of the gym workouts.

I wasn’t shooting her every day, but I don’t think I went more than 5 or 6 days without, at least, checking in with her. Because she was in the city, I could easily jump back into the story and pick up where we left off. Whether it was rugby, walking the dog, hanging at her house with her partner Matt, etc., we built a strong enough of a relationship that it felt very comfortable.

For me, building the relationship and letting it happen over time was the most important aspect of the story. I had never had the opportunity to work on something over a good period of time and I wasn’t in any rush with this.

I wanted to be fair to Lindsay and I felt the only way to do that was work slowly and not make it feel like I was working. I guess you could say this was a challenge I faced in telling Lindsay’s story, but it didn’t feel challenging at all. Again, I wasn’t rushing. I didn’t have a deadline. I didn’t pitch ESPN until after a month or so. They showed interest, but told me to spend as much time as I thought I needed.

A challenge certainly came with the edit. I had a big take from the story and had never been involved in such a wide edit before, so it was a great learning experience. The story went in a lot of directions, so finding a way to make the narrative flow properly was the challenge.

Obviously, being out on the east coast presented some difficulty for guidance and editing. I spoke/edited via split-screen Skype with ESPN a few times. And, I had some good phone calls with friends and colleagues that I respect greatly to talk things out. Tyler Anderson played a big role in helping me guide the story. As did Michelle Siu, who helped push me, while getting me to think differently about the pictures I was producing.

Lindsay and I are continuing to work together, but I feel like we are on Chapter 2. When looking back on Chapter One, I see a great friendship. It’s a bit uncomfortable for me to speak about this story in nerdy photojournalism terms. Lindsay is a friend and someone I have tremendous respect for. She was simply gracious enough with her time and patience to let me into her life to tell a story that I think is a significant one.

This picture story also won Third Prize in the Sports Category at the World Press Photo awards and First Place in Sports Picture Story at the POYI awards.


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