Shaun Fenn says any excuse to photograph sports is fine by him. For the past two years, he’s been working with the United States Tennis Association to create a custom library of images to use across their website and advertising platforms.
He was brought into the project by Wunderman to shoot fresh, healthy imagery for the USTA’s Net Generation, a program to promote tennis to a broader demographic of youth. Net Gen aims to help kids build skills and character on and off the court while creating a new generation of lifelong players.
They shot in L.A., first in a very urban environment, shooting chain-link everyday tennis, and later in an elegant private club, shooting the more typical upscale version of tennis. In both cases, the goal was to make tennis feel accessible to any player.
For this year’s revamp of the USTA’s primary website, Shaun took a larger creative role in the project, collaborating earlier on directly with the USTA to develop scenarios and scout potential locations.
“The in-house team at USTA was comfortable that we were on-brand and aligned stylistically, so we were given a lot more freedom to generate work for the website revamp that met the needs of the USTA both creatively and technically,” said Shaun.
Shaun’s emphasis on creating authentic imagery combining humanity and active lifestyle has created the positive reaction to his work. Shaun and his team focus from the beginning on the details to set their projects up for success. “It really comes down to preparation and planning for these large commercial projects. This attention to detail up front allows us to really focus on creativity on set while maximizing productivity for our clients,” says Shaun.
“Once we are on set and we are collaborating with our creative team, we tend to work at a pretty aggressive pace. Everything that has been put in place – because of our years of experience – is developed to help support our creative process. The earlier we can engage with the client the better, because they can really leverage our expertise with large productions.”
While sports like sailing and surfing are inherently sexy with bright colors, a gorgeous blue backdrop, and a ton of action, tennis is not an easy subject to shoot. There’s no dimension. There’s no location. The court is surrounded by walls. It’s basically a big, green cubical.
“There’s probably nothing tougher to shoot than a cubical,” laughed Shaun. “But for me, it’s a really fun creative challenge to work on scenarios which are more common everyday and make them look aspirational and inspirational. It just seems our sweet spot is working to get believable, authentic images which feel like they have some depth to them. Getting to work on projects like USTA which include outdoors and athletics are just an absolute bonus!”