In vintage base ball, the bases are made of canvas bags filled with sawdust or sand, the home plate is a real iron plate, and yes, it is called base ball, not baseball. Sara Stathas got to learn all about the historic sport with her shoot for the The Vintage Base Ball Association, an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting good ol' fashioned ball--that is, 19th century base ball.
This project fell into Sara's lap on the Fourth of July, when some vintage baseball players were marching in her neighborhood's parade. "Where can I watch you guys play?" she called to them as they passed, and they told her they'd be on one of the local fields later that day. Of course, Sara was no stranger to the world of baseball before this. She's a team photographer for the Milwaukee Brewers, and it's one of her favorite sports to photograph.
Because I'm a fan of baseball, and because of my work for the Brewers, I was kind of on the lookout for a creative baseball-related story.
When she saw what the vintage players were all about, she couldn't get enough. She learned that the vintage teams follow all the rules of baseball from 1860. They use period-authentic equipment, field specifications, and language. They even follow behavioral norms from the era and wear reproduction uniforms from 1860 so they can act and look the part. Despite the aesthetic difference, Sara said the game played out for the most part like modern-day ball. She did notice, however, that in 19th century rules, underhand pitching is allowed and a batter can get out if the ball is caught in the air or after one bounce.
Sara took a simple approach to the shoot, packing only the cameras and basic lighting kit that she could handle on her own. Conceptually, she aimed to compose the piece out of portraits and documentary-style shots.
My goal was to tell the story of vintage base ball over the course of a full day, weaving together game action and portraits of players.
For Sara, this was just the break from the Major Leagues she needed. No sponsor logos painted on the walls, no advertising in the background--just a bunch of guys, some 19th century bases, and a love for the game.
Shooting a day of vintage base ball felt like shooting poetry. It made me think of the slow-paced quality of the game as poetry unfolding--it was the chance to show the beauty of the sport.
To view more of Sara's work, visit sarastathas.com.
Written by Anna Donnella
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