Posing the Impossible

inspiration kids marketing sports

It could be worse. Comic by Karen Strum

Trying to make it as a fine artist is hard work, but it is not impossible. I have to supplement my income with freelance work, which is OK by me. I have 20 years experience in commercial art so I never have to look far to find interesting side projects. I recently started working with Visual Sports Photography in both a marketing and photography capacity. Visual Sports is a Lakeland photography studio that shoots individual and team photos of youth sports leagues.

Photo Shoot

On a recent Saturday morning I was at a football field in St. Pete by 7:15 AM along with a team of 10 people comprised of photographers and customer service reps. In order to shoot an entire league, teams are scheduled throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. Leagues may have 500 kids and we take 2-3 photos of each child, plus a group photo for each team in the league. Can you imagine the patience and organization it takes to photograph this many kids? It takes massive amounts, but it is not impossible.


On this particular Saturday I was helping out as the poser. Which means I said things like: put your feet here, turn at an angle, and square up your shoulders. I checked glasses for glare, removed hats, and straightened shirts. I did my best to get kids to smile.

Looking down the line I spotted a rather high energy kid sporting color  treated hair and a mohawk. I was a bit concerned that he might be a hand full. When it was his turn, I told him I wanted him to hold the football so that the laces were turned out and that the logos were visible. He said “That's not how you hold a football!” Almost 500 kids that morning, and he's the first one to challenge me on a pose. Could I get him to cooperate? It would be a challenge, but not impossible.

I laughed, I said I know. I tried to explain sometimes photos are staged so that they look “cool” rather than accurate. I told him if he looked at some of his football posters at home he'd probably notice there were “inaccuracies” in those as well. It is the art of photography.

The concept immediately clicked in his head and he began to pose the next teammate in line. He continued doing this for the rest of the team. He remembered each point that I checked perfectly and appeared to be having a great time.

I said, “You are really good at this! Maybe you should be a photographer.” He said, “That's impossible! There's no way I could do that!”

Art Education

In recent years, school curricula in the United States have shifted heavily toward common core subjects of reading and math. Added to the fact that children are spending more time interacting with digital devices rather than art projects, the opportunity to pursue art and photography may be limited, but it is not impossible.

While an art education may be regarded as a luxury by some, even simple art projects done at home can have a big impact. Art has been shown to improve motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness, and improved academic performance. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day for three days each week for one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair, or to win an award for writing an essay or poem compared to children who do not participate. Art clearly has a positive role in the development of our young, and should be encouraged. So get out your crayons, glue sticks and paint; start making a mess!


I told the young athlete he could do anything he set his mind to, as all it took was a good attitude and a lot of persistence. I gave him a little bit of information on where I went to school and told him about internships. I thought about the challenges I faced in my pursuit of an art career and wondered what obstacles this young man would have to conquer. I am thankful that my mother introduced me to art at a young age, and that I've had positive experiences in both fine and commercial art -- such as working with Visual Sports Photography and getting to photograph adorably cute kids. Photographing those 500 children seemed at first a challenge (I strongly suspect they were fed nothing but sugar and espresso for breakfast) but in fact went seamlessly. Life is like a shoot. It is how you pose your models and position the lights that determines the success of the photo. I truly believe that with effort, posing the impossible becomes possible.


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About the Author: Karen Strum is a Tampa Bay illustrator available for freelance projects. A unique cast of characters in her style can be designed for use in advertisements and materials for which you want something extra special. Karen's cartoons use retro imagery and vintage color palettes that add charm to every image she creates whether it is a comic, logo, diagram, book cover, or concept image. [Send an Email]


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