Zoe Davis, a graduate student at Syracuse University, won the James Brown and Frank Folwell Scholarship.
Originally from Chicago, I recently graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and minors in Spanish and Latin American studies. While there, I worked as a photographer for North by Northwestern magazine, a reporter for the Northwestern News Network and a videographer for the university’s football team. For three seasons, I filmed practices and games for coaches and players to review and also contributed to videos posted on YouTube and the biweekly television show “The Foundation: Inside Northwestern Football”. I also worked with the broadcast team of the athletic department to film games, including a live-streamed game for the Big Ten Network and edited videos for social media and live events.
In 2017, I studied Cuban history, literature and film for six weeks in Havana,. During my senior year, I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for three months, where I was a communications intern for the Conservation Land Trust. As part of my internship, I traveled to national parks in Corrientes and Santa Cruz and took photographs that were published in two national news outlets. Both experiences allowed me to immerse myself in the Spanish language and converse with people with backgrounds and experiences different from my own. I am interested in telling stories about race and gender and how they play out in North and Latin American cultures.
I am currently a master’s student in photography, multimedia and design at Syracuse University, where my focus has been documenting sports in the Syracuse area. I was awarded 2nd and 3rd place in the Photo Story/Essay for the NPPA 2019 4th quarter Student Quarterly. I am also a member of the 2020-2021 NPPA Mentorship Class.
My career goal is to be a team photographer for a professional team or D1 athletic program. I want to create sports visual storytelling that portrays not only the action but also shows the passion, commitment and dedication of athletes. This past year, I spent 3 months photographing a girl’s varsity basketball team near Syracuse. I went to practices, several home games and travelled with them on their bus to road games. Being with the team for so much time made me sure that I want to work in sports and tell long-form stories about sports. I got the chance to not only witness the girls as athletes but also as people. I had planned to follow the team through the entire spring semester, which was cut short by COVID. To finish the project, I asked the girls to write about their experiences as athletes, as girls, and how they believed living through this pandemic was changing them. Their responses were deep and honest and put the project into new perspective. The photos of practice and games and locker room dance parties and long bus rides were all of a sudden precious memories of a time when they could be together. This experience made me realize that the reason that I love sports and want to be a sports photographer is to capture those moments and memories that are significant. Sports photography is so much more than the winning shot or touchdown, it’s full of stories of communities, friendships, commitment, perseverance, talent, grit and love. Being able to tell these stories and capture memories and history that are not just important in the context of sport, but also to the communities that these teams and players call home.
This year I have worked as teaching multimedia storytelling to undergraduate students.
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You Don’t Play Boxing
“You don’t play boxing.” Coach John, a coach at the West Area Athletic & Education Center often tells this to his group of youth boxers. It’s a constant reminder, as he often wears a hat with this same phrase. The boxers are constantly reminded of the importance of focus, which in a sport like boxing could be the difference between getting punched in the face or not. The center founded by Ray Rinaldi, a Central NY native and SU alum, is a nonprofit boxing club that exists to help youth learn boxing and life skills. Monday through Friday, more than 20 kids train at the center and receive academic and personal support. They are guided and encouraged to become not only better athletes but also better people. The practices are tough—an hour and 15 minutes of running, push-ups and various boxing drills. Chris Burns, the head coach is tough, and doesn’t tolerate silliness or a lack of attention during practice. Everyone is pushed to be his or her personal best. Burns tells the boxers during practice that even if they aren’t the biggest or fastest or strongest, they can set the goal of working hard and improving themselves. He and the other coaches model leadership and encourage the older boxers to mentor their younger teammates. The kids take turns leading parts of practice, and when each one leads, they are given the same respect from their peers that their coaches would receive. One boxer has been coming to the center since he was four years old. Others were introduced to boxing as a way to handle anger and aggression. Some dream of being professional boxers and competing in the Olympic games. And they all continue to return day after day, practice after practice, some six days a week, for the love of the sport.
Project role: Director/Cinematographer