Follow-Up: Robert Clark Returns to Friday Night Football

By David Schonauer   Wednesday August 31, 2016

Robert Clark has gone back to high school

Several of them, in fact.

Last year we featured Clark in one of our weekly Profiles, which spotlight the work and the working methods of photojournalists, fine-art photographers, sports photographers, advertising photographers and others. Our story on Clark focused on a number of stories he’s done for National Geographic. We had plenty to choose from — Clark has shot some 40 stories for the magazine, many of them illustrating evolution science.

“I’m lucky in the work I’ve done; I’ve worked with some of the smartest people in the world,” he said.

Recently Clark got in touch to tell us about his latest project — a series of short films for sports apparel brand Russell Athletics that hark back to one of his breakthrough projects.  

Clark, who grew up in in Kansas and studied photojournalism at Kansas State University, worked his way through a number of newspaper jobs before launching his freelance career. He was working at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1980s when he heard that a reporter at the newspaper, H.G. (Buzz) Bissinger, had just gotten a contract to write a book about the football team of Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. Clark convinced Bissinger to hire him as the photographer of the book, which became the bestseller Friday Night Lights. His photo of three linked Permian players has become iconic.

In the same vein, Russell Athletic brought in Clark to direct videos chronicling six high school football teams that lost their state championship games last year by a touchdown or less. They also document how their communities are rallying around the teams this season.

 The first film, called 8 Seconds, features Indiana's New Palestine Dragons football team and coach Kyle Ralph.

Speaking with Adweek, Berk Wasserman, VP and creative director at the Barkley ad agency, noted that documentaries tell stories of athletic glory and grit “better than any TV show or traditional ad campaign could.”

"We didn't want to hire twenty-somethings to play high school athletes,” Wasserman said. “We wanted to tell the real stories and act less like marketers and more like journalists. That made Robert Clark the perfect choice for us. His photography really captures that raw emotion."

The videos and photos of the teams that Clark shot are on view at this dedicated website. Russell is also posting content on social media under the hashtag #SettleYourScore, notes Adweek.

In one of the more interesting aspects of the project, Clark also brought in a group of student photographers from each of the high schools featured in the film series to work with him. The students whose photos receive the most engagement on social media will earn a trip to college football’s Russell Athletic Bowl  as a credentialed photographer.


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