DPP Home Profiles Tim Tadder - Ahead Of The Game

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tim Tadder - Ahead Of The Game

Feeding off an unmatched competitive will to beat his own personal best, Tim Tadder’s incomparable work ethic is making him a modern master of commercial photography

I was on the sideline of the Super Bowl a few years ago,” photographer Tim Tadder muses. “I’m looking around, and there are hundreds of photographers. I think John W. McDonough from Sports Illustrated was next to me on one side and another guy from ESPN was on the other side, and I’m thinking, ‘How am I competing? How am I standing out with this?’ I’m in a two-by-two-foot box that I have to stand in for hours, I can’t move, I have a long lens, and I can only shoot the game in a certain way. How original is this content that I’m making?’ It was at that moment that I thought, ‘I have to change, or I’m never going to do what I want to do.’”

It’s not often that shooting the Super Bowl isn’t enough for a photographer, but that’s Tim Tadder. The man is as humble as it gets, absolutely shocked at his own well-deserved success, but he has in him the true diligence of an athlete, constantly striving to work harder, to be better and to live out his dreams. So, after shooting the Super Bowl, Tadder decided to start all over again, at square one.

“I was photographing this triathlon for a newspaper,” he says. “I think I was making $75 to shoot it. I was out there with the lenses and the cameras, running around and capturing this and that, and I saw this one athlete getting out of the water. He had an amputated right leg, just below the knee. He made the transition over to the bike, strapped on this leg and went off on his way. I saw that and I thought, ‘Huh, that’s an interesting athlete. It would be cool to do a portrait of this guy.’

“So after the race, I found him and went up to him, and said, ‘Hey, I’m working on my portfolio, and you’d make a good subject. Let’s try to set up a good time to shoot it.’ So we shot it, and I came home with this nice, stylized image for my portfolio. And it worked, and people saw the image and reacted to it. I thought, ‘All right, let’s do that again.’ So I found someone else and found someone else, and just kept building up these personal images until I had a dozen or so.”

Continues Tadder, “Then I promoted this portfolio on the web, and that’s kind of where the booking began. It’s kind of funny that two years after the Super Bowl I covered, the very first ad in the Super Bowl program was a shot from me—a full-page ad of this football sequence that I did for Southwest Airlines. A few years ago, I was on the sidelines shooting with everyone else, and here I have an opportunity to create something that visually communicates what was really my vision, not just my reaction to a sports moment—my hypersensitized dramatic version of how a perfect sports moment might be.”

Tadder’s images feature strong foreground subjects as the principal graphic element, usually poised at that peak moment of high-wire, fuel-injected tension.


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