Now, I know for a fact that not every reader of this here blog is a starving artist or commercial photographer. No, some of you have regular jobs with employers like a big soulless corporation or New York State. And as I imagine you sitting in your penthouses, country estates and castles, contemplating your next fur coat or stretch limousine, I’m wondering why you don’t hold off on that Beverly Hills mansion and give the $85.000.000 that you saved to Claudia Hehr?

Claudia Hehr, as you might remember, graced the pages of The Heavy Light once before and has another interesting project in the pipeline. This time she wants to photograph the orphans of the Good Hope Center in Tanzania and document the work of Artists for World Peace, which is not Ron Artest‘s new name, but a non-profit that works with above mentioned orphans. And for this she needs your help.

To find out more about the project, see a video interview with Claudia, and donate the $85.000.000 go to



From the Toot-My-Own-Horn-Dept.: The peak has been scaled: Popular Photography is running a Chinatown Baller along with a little interview in its May issue. The printed version even has the Umlauts over my name (now that’s fancy).

In other news (but still from the Toot-My-Own-Horn-Dept.), Number 3 Magazine just published the Saltfalt portion of my Giddy Up series on it’s website.

A big “thank you” to Miriam, Lindsay, Jae and Lori at Popular Photography and to Mark at Number 3.

If you’ve been following this here blog, you might have noticed that I’ve been writing semi-compulsively about soccer, and since I can’t come up with a good reason to stop, I want to deliver two additions to recent posts.

© James Kendi

#1: The Grand Street Wanderers finally managed to overcome their playoff choking habit and win the semi-final and final in two thrilling games in one afternoon. Of course you might remember some of these blue clad handsome devils from the Chinatown Ballers project.

We had Chris stonewalling the opposition despite playing with a broken thumb,…

…Tomas organizing the defense by the sheer power of his mighty beard,…

…Matt driving the non-paying fans insane with a sensational header goal,…

…and Gus working his Brazilian magic despite his style being seriously cramped by cramps.

And even though the cup was small and of golden plastic, it sure felt sweet.

#2: This one is concerning the recent F.C. Williamsburg post. While putting the pics together for that post I was desperately looking for an image by Volker Hinz that I’ve seen years ago in a book, but that I could not find in the netting of the inter for the life of me. In a weird piece of serendipity Stern republished it on it’s website this week, and so here it is: Two great football icons chatting in the showers, with shampoo in their hair, and with full view of the Kaiser’s buns and Pele’s ronaldinho. Holy Moly.

Oh Boy!

For quite some time now (when looking at my better half) I had a sneaking suspicion that my life was about to change. And guess what? I was right. Nine seconds into Valentine’s day Ray Anschütz was born.

Even though he still needs a hand to maintain proper posing posture, he’s definitely our best child so far as well as our first born. Of course my judgment might be slightly impaired because what he’s doing in this picture, he’s not doing at night.

F.C. Williamsburg

During the planning, shooting and promoting of the Chinatown Ballers, I had, for obvious reasons, the imagery of football on my mind, and since I was gripped by a sense of nostalgia for a time before the internet I explored the internet for images from when I was a little boy (or “wee lad” in proper football nomenclature). My becoming a soccer fan coincided with the time when German Fussball was at it’s very peak. The teams from the early 70’s were filled to the rim with great players, who were in turn filled with the spirit of rock’n’roll, or something. In any case all these guys could be timemachined into nowadays Williamsburg and, while ordering a macchiato, make a barista feel squarish.

So let’s start with the great “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer, the innovative play-making defender and early expert on mustache irony.

Here he is showing New Yorkers how to simultaneously impress his mom, his grandma and his girlfriend while sporting a little powder-blue baggy. How did he do it? I wish I knew.

Great minds think alike…

…which leads us to Gerd Müller. Possibly the best German player of them all, definitely the best striker by far, which is why he gets to wear this outfit:



Here he scores the winning goal in the ’74 World Cup final against the Netherlands…

and that’s why he gets to smoke a big cigar with Paul Breitner….

…speaking of Breitner: Here was a man who was not afraid to engage in an Afro-deathmatch to the death with England’s Kevin Keagan…

…tell fratboys all over the world how to turn indigestion into a headache…

…show men what men shorts should look like on men (together with Uli Hoeness)…

…and yet be a sensitive art lover deep down inside…

…just like Guenter Netzer…

…a moody midfield genius…

…who knew his place at a pool…

…or on a very fast, sexy car…

…just like Sepp Maier…

…the backbone of the defense…

…who’d go after any ball…

…in any condition…

…and never lose his head.

Last but definitely not least there was Berti Vogts, one of my favorite players.

Though he was a bit undersized, his ferocious defending earned him the nickname “the terrier”.

And yet, he was man enough to read a book in a romantic setting…

…and keep his forwards (Jupp Heynckes in this case) happy, no matter how.

Let’s finish with Rolf Hayo’s terrific shot of Gerd Mueller pounding a ball through seven window panes, symbolizing a soccer mom’s dream and nightmare simultaneously.

A nice source for more good, clean images of German soccer is http://bundesligaclassic.tumblr.com/.

Some of the regular highlights of my New York existence are the amateur soccer games I play in Chinatown. Some fellow kickers and I started to get together quite a long time ago for a midweek pick-up game on a 7 a side pitch at the edge of Barrio Chino. The game proved to be very robust and survived the cold winters, hot summers, stretches of low popularity, stretches of too much popularity, and many personnel changes for over a decade now. Even though soccer has its fair share of whiners, complainers, braggers, spoiled brats, bullies, people teetering dangerously close to sanity, as well as people that are all of the above, we managed to keep the game clean, competitive, friendly and fair.

Out of this pick-up game a weekend league named Groupstage evolved thanks to the efforts of Matt

and Tomas.

Matt and I have been bouncing the idea of a photo shoot around for quite a while, partly to promote his league, partly to promote my business, but also to do something creative with people we like to hang around with. As a matter of fact we’ve been talking about it for so long that it got kind of embarrassing. So this November I finally got my derriere in gear and picked a date for the shoot. Production becomes much easier with a deadline.

I started off with a location scout. The shoot had to be on a weekend or an evening when people would have a bit more time, and I don’t really like working in the evening, since then’s when I do my deep thinking. Field time on weekends is at a premium with tons of leagues competing for space. We decided on a field in Brooklyn that had good turf and was big enough to claim a corner for the shoot even while people were playing. Since the budget was midgety and since I’m still a bit confused about the (not so)new NYC permit process I decided to chance it and shoot permission free.

Since I was going to take action shots, flash sync speed became an issue. I normally shoot with a RZ67 with a 1/400 sync speed. I usually like to get a little blur, since I’m kind of bored with all the full freeze shots out there (if you can’t do something, it’s usually best to pretend that you wouldn’t want to do it anyway), but at that speed (1/400th that is) it’s sometimes hard to get just the right amount of movement. My pal and fellow photographer Juergen Frank was nice enough to loan me his Phase One 645 body and I rented a new Schneider lens with a sync speed of 1/1600. Beside the lens I rented a Profoto 7b with 2 heads (in addition to the 2 packs and 4 heads that I have), and a ton of sandbags. The rentals this time came from Nucleus in Red Hook.

The right amount of blur.

I worked with Chris as my one and only assistant and we set up a grey muslin backdrop that I had stuck in the dryer twice and ironed (!) the night before just to decide that we didn’t really like the grey for this set-up. Emotionally it was hard for me to let go, since I really don’t like ironing, but eventually I agreed with Chris and we put up a black cloth.

The next problem was surprisingly sync speed. Even though the lens can handle 1/1600, we could only get it to work properly at 1/800th. I’m still not sure why. One theory is that the radio slaves wouldn’t work that fast, but if anybody can think of another explanation, let me know. Luckily 1/800th gave me just the bit of blur I was looking for, so whew.

Bad backdrop, bad sync, good assistant.

Between these two issues we were still in a bit of a scramble by the time the first player showed up. Fortunately nothing else went wrong and we could start to concentrate on taking pictures. I set up 2 cameras, the 645 with the 110 mm and a Phase One P45+ at a distance for the action shots and full portraits and the RZ with a 90mm and my own P25 for close-ups. The RZ is a beautiful camera for tight portrait work and it cut down on time for lens changes.

Shooting action with an unfamiliar camera proved also to be not so easy. The shutter release point was way further back than in the RZ and the ball was often already in the fence when I took the shot. There was definitely a larger than usual blooper reel:

For lighting we set up 2 7B packs with 4 heads with regular reflectors from the front and the sides. We had another 7B with 2 heads coming from behind the models from each side and there was also a bit of sunshine from high and right.

The postproduction was minimal except for darkening the backdrop, and dealing with a bit of glare we sometimes got from the backlights, because the players didn’t always end up in the same place, and removing the shadow of a light or two on the floor, and cropping, and sexyfying the color, contrast and saturation a bit.

au naturel

a la vogue

If you’re thinking about joining a league in New York and playing against some of these handsome devils here, you might want to check out Groupstage.

If you want to read a roaming, eclectic, soccer-inspired blog, with league news thrown in for good measure, check out the Groupstage Blog.

If you want to read ( and I mean read) a roaming, eclectic, mildly melancholic, soccer-inspired blog, without league news but in German ( I know you Germans are out there), check out Freitagsspiel.

If you want to see the entire Chinatown Ballers series, click here.

Hope you all have a high scoring 2012.

Chinatown Ballers

There’s a new gallery on my website with portraits and action shots of some of my NYC soccer colleagues. A more in depth post will follow shortly. In the meantime a big “thumbs up” to Matt Penrose at Groupstage who helped organize the shoot, posted it on his blog, and runs a terrific league, in case you’re looking for a game.