In his latest installment of his I Hate Sports series, site contributor Adam Lentz chats with photographer Kate Frese about her career working within the sports industry. In addition to her work in the sports world. Kate has also been shooting shows for many years and is passionate about the hardcore community there. -Carlos Ramirez
I know you from contributing photos to my day job at the cracker factory [Revelation Records]. How did you end up taking pictures of games rather than shows?
Yes! I remember being so excited getting that message and here we are years later and you continue to share my work.
Initially, I wanted to become a mainstream music photographer. I got a gig working for a magazine and tried it out for a couple years. It wasn’t for me, so I stuck to shooting hardcore bands for fun. I was asked by a professor what I wanted to do with my photo degree after I graduated and I had no idea since music was my only plan. He knew me as a sports fan and said I should think about it. I then, coincidentally, I had someone email me offering an internship shooting pro sports because he loved my music photography and thought I would be good at it. I was shooting pro sports a couple weeks later.
What was your first experience with shooting sports?
I started shooting in July of that year with covering Philadelphia Union (football, er, soccer) games. I am not much of a soccer fan, but still enjoyed the experience. I love the atmosphere of a live sporting event and Philly fans of any sport are entertaining.
You didn’t start smaller with high school sports or anything?
Nope! I went straight into pro sports. I’m kind of an anomaly.
Not even for a local paper?
Nope. I worked at a local paper back home in Lancaster, but as an editorial assistant, short feature writer, and paginator.
After doing pro sports for a few years, I did cover local high school and NCAA sports for a magazine when I was living in Baltimore for a short while. But that was not my start.
What’s a paginator?
It’s the person who does the layout for newspapers. It's very tedious work but I enjoyed it and it and it was a good evening/night job in college. I also got to hang out with the sports writers who were there at night.
So, you start with soccer but your true love is…
Hockey! Best sport on Earth.
And your favorite team…
The Philadelphia Flyers.
And I have actually seen you on TV at the camera hole. How the hell did that happen?
I normally have a shooting hole for one period every game. People often look for me and I get some pretty hilarious photos of myself on TV screens.
How’d you work your way to the glass and how do they decide who gets the hole?
Photo assignments go by rank. There’s a pecking order. Team photographers have the prime locations. After that, Getty Images, then AP Images, and USAToday Sports. Papers and magazines get next priority and then web-based publications are ranked. I’ve worked my way up from the ranks of game-to-game media passes to a season credential, so I’m at the top of the web-based publications.
Who are you shooting for? Gotta plug ‘em.
I’m going to be adding some new sites pending team approval, but I’m for sure going to be with The Athletic and Flyerdelphia of Talk Sports Philly.
When you’re at the glass do you ever think “someone paid hundreds of dollars to sit here and I’m working?”
All of the time! I never ever take it for granted. Growing up, I went to AHL and ECHL games. I never got to go to an NHL game until I was working one. Being a fan, it’s a truly such an amazing experience.
So what have been your biggest “oh shit this is crazy” moments or experiences?
Hands down getting to photograph Eric Lindros/the Legion of Doom (forward line featuring Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg) in an alumni game. I started watching hockey in the ‘90s when the Legion of Doom were in their heyday. I immediately fell in love and Lindros remains my favorite player to this day. Since I’ve only been doing this for about seven years, I never thought I’d get the experience of photographing them playing together again. Funny I mention this now, because just this afternoon I mailed him prints to his house.
I hope people don’t forget about how dominant Peter Forsberg was, too. Dude couldn’t get knocked off the puck.
He’s one of my favorites. Dominant from such a young age. I believe he still holds the World Juniors (tournament of countries featuring the best players under 20 years old. It’s fantastic). Crazy that the Flyers ended up getting Lindros, though. Quebec got a lot for him.
And the (Quebec) Nordiques move to Colorado and immediately win a cup. Ouch.
I wish the Legion of Doom would’ve won a cup. Ugh, I can’t think about that too much without getting upset.
I asked Dave Mandel (Indecision Records founder and MMA photographer) a similar question in my second interview: what’s harder to shoot, hardcore shows or live sports?
That’s a hard question for me to answer. I guess I’ll say live sports. Shooting hockey comes naturally to me because I know the sport well, but when I cover sports I don’t know well, there’s a small adjustment period. Shooting hockey and hardcore is easy for me because I can pretty much anticipate a lot of the movements and shots. If I don’t know a sport as well I don’t have as much of an instinct.
I think that’s important. You need to be able to anticipate a play the way the players do.
Absolutely! I watch a hockey game when I’m shooting differently than (when I watch as) a spectator. I’m watching movement with the knowledge of players’ and teams’ tendencies. My mind is analyzing interactions instead of plays, if that makes sense.
Of course. What would it take to get Wayne Simmonds traded back to the Kings?
My dead body.
What’s your ultimate goal in photography?
I want to be the team photographer for an NHL team, ideally the Flyers.
What if the Penguins offered you that job?
While it would pain me, I’d consider taking it if I felt I didn’t have a good chance of being a photographer somewhere else. When it comes down to it, I just love hockey and I’m happiest while shooting it. I’d find a way to enjoy it, but you will never catch me being a Penguins fan. Only time I ever rooted for them was when Lemieux was playing.
He didn’t even play 1,000 games. Coulda put up Gretzky numbers.
You’ve also done some work with the Eagles, right?
I’m just starting to break into that media, yes! I covered the Super Bowl parade for The Athletic and recently shot a practice for them. I’m in the works of potentially doing some more with them and another publication. I’m hoping to shoot a game someday!
That’s two straight interviews where my subject worked a championship parade.
[Laughs] That’s pretty cool.
Do you find it difficult to crack advancing jobs in the world of sports?
This whole experience has been hard and will continue to be. I am thankful I was able to get my foot in the door by someone discovering me and taking a chance, but that was the easiest part of all this. Very few people are successful in this industry. For most of us, there’s years of unpaid work to get your foot in the door. There’s a lot of people who want your job, which brings a lot of backstabbing and jealousy. Being a woman on top of it has posed its additional challenges of harassment and people doubting my ability. So yes, it’s been difficult, but has also brought a lot of amazing opportunities and moments and I’m thankful for that.
Are Philly fans really as messed up as we are led to believe?
Most of them, yes! It’s something that I thought was just something people made up, but when I started working Flyers games I realized it’s absolutely true. I don’t know if “messed up” is necessarily the right way to describe them, though. I think at the root of every Philly fan is passion. For those who have been fans for many years, you have to think about the amount of championships we’ve experienced. Not many. Passion mixed with disappointment and frustration can come across as crazy.
Follow Kate on Instagram and check out her website.
Tagged: i hate sports