PDN: When I heard that Kathy Ryan had asked you to do portraits of
the Yankees a while back I thought, "Joyce Tenneson shooting baseball players?
That doesn't jive." But the resulting work is so beautiful and strong. Was that
assignment a stretch for you initially, and how did you approach that project?
JOYCE TENNESON: I've been very fortunate to be able to balance
my life and my mortgage payments and my son's education with assignment work,
which I've done a fair amount of, along with my book projects, which are personal.
Also, I love doing portraits for magazines. This was a particularly interesting
example of cross-fertilization, in that I had first shown the photo editor of
The New York Times Magazine my personal series on Light Warriors.
And she happened to be in a meeting six weeks later in which they were discussing
a cover story on the Yankees, who were doing so well. And Steinbrenner, the owner,
had called them his warriors. I think probably something clicked in her head and
she called me and asked me if I would be interested. I said yes, and then I had
to learn everything I could about baseball in three days. . . luckily I'm a fast
reader! I only had three or four minutes with each of the players so I had to
really be focused on what I wanted to get. I love that series, and I was thrilled
to get the opportunity to do it. I think that I learned something which I then
brought back into my personal work. Not every day is like that, but it was one
of those wonderful moments when there is a cross-fertilization between my personal
and assignment work.
PDN: Do you ever find it a compromise to have to do commercial work
to "pay the bills," especially since fine art seems to be your real passion?
JOYCE TENNESON: Well, let me start this answer by again, discussing
the Yankees series, which I really liked, mainly because I think it has a mythic
quality that I try to get in my other work. It was very satisfying for me to be
able to get that with those players. And I think they do have an intelligence
and kind of inner depth that was something that the Times was happy to
see, rather than a typical action shot. I was always brought up to really work
hard, and to not feel entitled to any kind of enchanted life. I have been willing
to take the good times and the bad times. I think anyone who comes to New York
and expects to negotiate being in this city as a professional has to be ready
to work really hard and balance the good days and the, shall I say, more difficult
days. It builds character.