In an interview with The Game magazine, sports photographer Jared Martinez reveals his journey into photography and how his passion for storytelling led him to pursue an international professional career capturing the essence of athletes around the world.
“I try to humanize my subjects and capture emotion within my photographs,” Jared Martinez has a unique style of storytelling in his photography. With using a different style, he brings the stories of each game to life by humanizing his subjects, capturing their emotions and experiences through his lens.
Jared’s passion for storytelling has been with him for as long as he can remember. When he lost his job, he was free to pursue his true passion. He created a hub called “Godspeed, Good Sir” which became the start of his storytelling journey. “I began documenting trips and mini adventures with my wife with a small camera,” he recalls. That’s when he discovered the joy of storytelling and decided to take it more seriously.
Today, Jared Martinez is a U.S.-based freelance photographer who travels the world in search of games and the stories that surround them. What sets Jared’s photographs apart is his ability to capture the essence of the athletes he photographs. He doesn’t alter his point of view to suit the situation but instead captures the athletes’ emotions and experiences as they are. “I like to show these athletes with out-of-this-world athletic talent as normal people who experience the same emotions you and I experience,” he says. Jared believes that sports photography “is not scripted” and that “luck” plays a significant role in capturing the perfect shot. As his favorite sports photographer, Neil Leifer, once said, “You can’t get away from the element of luck in sports photography, but what makes a great sports photographer is that, when we get lucky, we don’t miss.”
“For me, a large part of telling a story is focusing on the details, the emotions and the ways those evolve throughout a match.”
Where did your interest in photography first begin? And when you look back at your photography journey, how do you see the changes you’ve made?
I’ve always been interested in telling stories, whether that was through words or visual forms. In 2013, I took up a job as Director of Marketing, which pushed me to tell stories for commercial purposes. I was tasked to lead video productions and photoshoots, ideate creative treatments and hire creatives. This opened my eyes to this form of visual storytelling, and I began documenting trips and mini adventures with my wife with a small camera.
In 2015, I was abruptly laid off and had a lot of time on my hands as I searched for another job. In the meantime, I created a creative hub named Godspeed, Good Sir, where I posted some images from my trips along with creative inspiration that related to one’s journey, hence “Godspeed” in the name. As I look back to my early work, it was all over the place and very design-heavy or overly edited. I think I was searching for my voice or point of view while experimenting with these somewhat new tools at my disposal. I think through that experimentation, I landed on things I enjoy photographing and stories I enjoy telling.
“ I’ve always been interested in telling stories.”
You specialize in photographing sports, but in addition to that, you shoot other types of photography. Can you explain why? How do you describe yourself as a photographer?
Yes, I think in short, I’m curious about all types of photography. I think my strength is photographing sports, but I’m always trying to pursue all forms of photography and storytelling. My overall goal is always to challenge myself to learn new techniques and new ways to photograph the same subject, sporting events.
That’s a good question and it changes often, but I guess I usually answer with one of my main objectives when photographing subjects; I try to humanize my subjects and capture emotion within my photographs.
You take pictures of people with an emphasis on portraits, even while you’re at sporting events. Can you explain how and why you came to this special signature?
Yes, that goes back to the previous question regarding how I describe myself as a photographer. I think I came to this ‘signature’ by following my interests and being given opportunities to capture sporting events freely without specific guidelines, thanks to some great clients!
I don’t think I ever really thought about focusing on portraits while at a sporting event; I think it’s just an innate drive of me to capture the story of the game. For me, a large part of telling a story is focusing on the details, the emotions and the ways those evolve throughout a match.
For me, highlights of the big plays will be shown in video form, which is the better conduit for those, but how can I enhance or set a foundation for that with my photos? From a more personal perspective, I like to show these athletes with out-of-this-world athletic talent are normal people that experience the same emotions you and I experience. So, capturing the determination as a player takes the court, field or pitch, or capturing the ecstasy of a celebration, etc, to transfer that emotion from the player to the viewer.
Could you go into more detail about the technical aspects of taking these shots?
Technically, it’s more about the context of when I capture the portraits than the actual camera settings. For me, in most matches and games, I’m shooting at a high shutter with a shallow depth of field. I try to isolate the athlete and compose the shot to remove all unnecessary distractions from my frame. Usually, it’s more of a hero shot, where I’m shooting from low to high, but it’s not always the case.
Less technically, I think about those moments where emotions would be visible in pre-match rituals, locker rooms, walkouts, team huddles, big moments throughout the game or match, etc. I also try to get to know the players and know their rituals, stories and characteristics. For me, knowing some of that info on an athlete provides ideas on how I can capture those moments.
What characteristics distinguish a great photo from a match? What are the challenges of action sports photography
For me, it’s pretty simple; does the photo make me feel something? I think there are levels to this answer as well, bonus points if the photo also encapsulates the story of the match, bonus points if the photo contains the main protagonist of the match.
The challenge is that sports photography is not scripted. It really is up to luck or chance. You can be prepared as much as possible, but at the end of the day, there is an element of luck involved. Neil Leifer, one of the greatest sports photographers ever, talks about this “You can’t get away from the element of luck in sports photography, but what makes a great sports photographer is that, when we get lucky, we don’t miss.”
In your photographs, people, colours, and shadows are all prominently displayed. What or where do you get inspiration the most?
It’s hard to describe and this answer might be all over the place. In terms of colour, I love the look of the film. I go back to old sports photographs and try to re-create some of the colours that shooting on film achieves. Because shooting sports normally have such a rapid turnaround, grading usually doesn’t fit into the equation when submitting photos. So, I look elsewhere in the photography world to see any interesting colour grades I can try to incorporate into my sports work – mostly from fashion or editorial work. In terms of my inspiration when capturing people and matches, it’s very narrative and detailed driven. I try to stay fresh in terms of how to capture, so I’m always looking for different angles and vantage points. I guess, as I describe it, it’s really a bit of trial and error. I’m not afraid to try new things, try new angles, or new lenses.
“As a father of a young daughter, working in women’s soccer has been a real blessing, both professionally and personally.”
You are photographing not just men’s but also women’s soccer. Do you consider what influence your photography has in society?
I really have been fortunate enough to follow my interests. As a father of a young daughter, working in women’s soccer has been a real blessing, both professionally and personally. Professionally I’ve been able to capture some amazing athletes during historic times of women’s athletics, and personally, my daughter has already been able to meet some amazing women and role models, which brings me so much joy as a father.
You cover a wide variety of international events and travel extensively. Which challenges have you encountered most frequently, and how have you dealt with them? Has there been a particular one that stood out in your mind?
I’ve been fortunate to not really have a good answer to this question. I know how lucky I am that I get to do what I do for a living and try not to take it for granted, so I embrace all challenges with that mindset, and it puts everything into perspective. I’ve had gear stolen internationally which is both scary and very frustrating (always get international coverage on your equipment), but I now take more precautions in that regard.
I have a funny story that I thought of when I read the question. In one of my first assignments in Germany, shooting Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena, I started shooting the Ultras, the Südkurve, I believe. I was only shooting for a few moments when I saw a cup full of beer flying toward my head out of the corner of my eye. Luckily, I dodged it. I laughed and went to tell a friend of mine who was also shooting the match. He told me that it’s a big ‘no-no’ to photograph the Südkurve and that did not surprise him at all. I told him I wish he had told me that prior to the match (Jared laughs). A lesson is that as a photographer working in various parts of the world, you should know or be aware of cultural do’s and don’ts.
The other one that initially came to mind was being away from my family due to work travel. One of my jobs was covering the MLS is Back tournament for MLS. I was one of the first to arrive in Orlando, FL and one of the last to leave. It was a fantastic experience, but the emotional toll of being away from my family and friends for 60 days was tough.
Is there a game, player, or incident that stays out in your mind as particularly meaningful?
There are a few, but the first, undoubtedly, is Messi’s winner at the Bernabeu. In that split second following his goal, the crowd was going crazy, screaming, throwing things at him, etc. I really wanted to capture the environment, the atmosphere, and the emotion of not only the celebrating Barcelona team but the utter dejection of the Real Madrid defenders. So, I shot it wide on my 24mm.
I immediately knew I had witnessed something exciting and was shaking from the adrenaline of that moment for some time afterward.
What’s next for your work? Any new projects?
A lot of exciting things. Currently in the playoffs with the LA Clippers. I am hoping for a deep run with many, many iconic moments. I’m starting a collective of highly-talented creators to work closer with athletes – supporting them through design, photography and videography, all the things needed to build their brands.
And I’m currently planning my coverage of the Women’s World Cup this summer. Lastly, speaking with a number of European teams for their coverage needs this summer as they visit the US. Exciting times! Keeping up with the usual work, but those are the notable ones.
Would you like to add something?
I think I’d just like to throw out there that I love connecting with fellow creatives and colleagues in the creative world. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, as I love exchanging ideas and having discussions.