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Exhibitions: Jason Evans Immortalizes Newport, RI's "Boys of Summer"

By David Schonauer   Friday June 9, 2017


Jason Evans  began thinking about the Newport Gulls in 2012.

The Rhode Island-based photographer was covering the 2012 London Olympics for the International Olympic Committee when he decided it was time to try something new. “The IOC produced a book called The Art of Motion that featured my work and work by other photographers at the games, and while looking at it I realized that was how I wanted to approach sports pictures moving forward. I wanted my photographs to be able to stand out in a way that wasn’t solely based on timing,” he says.

Evans, who has photographed sports ranging from polo to surfing, is a past winner of the American Photography competition, and his work has appeared in Men’s Journal, The Improper Bostonian, Runner’s World, Rhode Island Monthly and Yankee Magazine, as well as in ad campaigns for clients including New Balance, Nike, and TaylorMade. But after London he was determined to pursue a personal project about sports along with his commercial work.

The Gulls, a wooden-bat summer collegiate baseball team in his own backyard, seemed like a good fit for his plans. “I knew there was a chance to have an artistic take on the team and baseball — something I hadn’t seen before,” Evans says.  “I hadn’t shot a lot of baseball at that point, so I knew I would have to spend some time experimenting and figuring out how best to capture the game. When access to the Gulls and my schedule aligned in the summer of 2015, it was a perfect opportunity to spend some time with the team.”

The results are on view through September 10 at the Newport Art Museum  in the exhibition "Boys of Summer: A Season with the Newport Gulls.”

“The Gulls team is made up of college players who come and stay with host families in Newport for the summer,” says Evans. “The organization and players do a lot of outreach, education and events throughout the summer and really become a big part of the community for that time. I live a few miles from the stadium so I knew I could attend several games to capture different lighting situations and different situational outcomes on the field.”

The stadium itself is a character in Evan’s series. “It’s beautiful, old, and compact,” he says. “It’s surrounded by houses and is close enough to the ocean that we’d get fog some nights and beautiful sunsets on others. I shot everything with Canon cameras and lenses. I had used a 400mm lens for a lot of events in London, and I really wanted to be able to use wider lenses and get close for the project on the Gulls. I wanted to get a close as possible to the players and the action, closer than I was allowed to go at the Olympics. Being hit by a ball was always a possibility, but I managed to escape unscathed.”

“At first there weren’t any specific goals — I wanted to shoot and experiment, purely as a passion project. In the end, I realized that I had a great body of work that I could bring to the museum for consideration,” Evans says.

The exhibition features 21 of Evans’s images, both color and black and white and ranging in size from 11 x 15 inches to 27 x 40 inches. “I shot the photographs digitally but treated them to look like film in order to retain the nostalgic nature of baseball,” Evans says. “I think most Americans have a connection to baseball at some point in their lives and can relate to the emotions in fans eyes or in players running out of the batter’s box.”

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