Chicago’s legacy as a sports town ranks among the best in the world, thanks to iconic teams like the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and White Sox. Therefore, it’s also a city with incredible sports photographers who can capture amazing shots of these legendary names. These perceptive creatives are in no short supply, with many moving to the city to pursue a career in sports photography. As with the entire country, the best Chicago sports photographers aren’t limited to gender, age, or capabilities; they come in all shapes and sizes. What they do have in common is a fierce drive to capture the athleticism and grace of players, as well as the drama and history of the games themselves.
Chicago Tribune photojournalist Brian Cassella has been working behind the lens for at least a decade. Since 2009, he’s been covering sports news and related features, such as both the summer and winter Olympics. His work in photojournalism has earned him IPPA’s “2014 Sports Photographer of the Year,” and still, five years later, his beautifully-framed action photographs appear as moments frozen in time. Plus, his photo series The Next Day, which chronicles Chicago communities living and dealing with gun violence, scored him a prestigious Cliff Edom “New America Award.”
2. John J. Kim
In sports photography, it’s harder than it appears to frame a subject. The action moves so fast that oftentimes any photograph taken of it comes out in a blur. Photojournalist John J. Kim excels at framing his subjects, whether it’s a double rainbow appearing on the Chicago skyline or a celebrated victory of the White Sox. Before becoming a staff photographer for the Tribune, Kim worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, covering gun violence in Chicago’s Northwest side. He and his fellow reporters earned the Pulitzer Prize for their work.
3. Erin Hooley
The Chicago Tribune‘s photography staff is remarkable. Alongside her colleagues, Erin Hooley has worked for the paper since 2015. Before moving to the Tribune, Hooley worked for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, covering personal stories and news alike. Over her time as a sports-leaning photographer, she’s covered MMA, Alaskan dog-sled races, and beer trails. Each of her photographs come with two stories: one the photograph tells and another that Hooley tells. Using a wash of vivid, vibrant colors, her shots bring each story to life.
Armando L. Sanchez’s sports photographs are cinematic; many images could be confused for film stills or music videos. His body of work and experience therein speak volumes. After studying photography at Western Kentucky University, he’s had four newspaper internships, the most recent being the Chicago Tribune. Photography is quite clearly his passion, and his photographs have appeared in Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press. Additionally, his photography around the subject of Chicago gun violence shines a light on those around it and how it’s affecting them in the moment. What better eye for sports photography?
5. Chris Sweda
In 2010, a stunning photograph of lightning striking the Sears Tower and the Trump Tower in downtown Chicago hit the Internet. The world was captivated, and its photographer was Chris Sweda, staff photographer for the Chicago Tribune. Working with the publication since 2009, he previously spent time with the Chicago Sun-Times and, before that, the Daily Southtown. His sports photographs are able to capture what the eye misses, be it a player lifting his cap to the crowd or the moment an athlete leaps two feet into the air. His dedication to never missing those small, special moments is what cements his position among the best Chicago sports photographers.
Kena Krutsinger is a freelance photographer and assistant team photographer for the Chicago Bulls, which means plenty of Bulls action but not that alone. Krutsinger’s magic is in perspective; whether it’s taking you to the court from the ground or above, her photographs open up a whole new world to the sports they cover. As well as covering Bulls games, she’s taken exceptional shots of half-time shows, dancing mascots, and the various raw emotion on her subjects’ faces.
Andreas Endregaard stumbled into photography by accident. However, given his body of work thus far, one might argue it was his calling. It came to him as a result of Project Liaison, an arts collective in Chicago started by Endregaard and a couple of his friends. All of his photographs have the ability for the subject to reach out of them, touching or pulling in the viewer as part of their journey. In sports photography, this is exceedingly rare. Endregaard is a master in that his photographs make you want to get involved.
Chicago Cubs’ team photographer Stephen Green shoots on both his Canon and iPhone. He rarely lets a moment slip by without being captured lest it become lost in the past, which is exactly what we as photographers long to do. Over the last 30 years, Green has worked for everything from the Mississippi Delta to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Based out of the glorious city of Chicago to this day, Green’s specialty when it comes to sports photography is to create action-based portraits. Whether it’s a player ready to hydrate or a CEO about to change the world, Green has shot it.
Working at the Chicago Tribune since 1998, veteran visual journalist Stacey Wescott has captured more than her fair share of memorable moments over the last 20 years. Wescott began her time with the Tribune as a staff photographer and assignment editor, paving her own way to become one of the publication’s most renowned, experienced, and motivated multimedia journalists in Chicago. Working closely with the editors and photographers beneath her across all media, it’s in sports that her creative eye is truly turned out.
No matter the reason you’re looking for the best Chicago sports photographers, be it team portraits of your up-and-coming softball or roller-derby team or just looking into the medium yourself, these talented individuals have you covered. It’s easy to be inspired when you’re looking at something so beautiful, and when a photographer can even make spitting gum on a baseball field just that, you know you’ve found something special. The best Chicago sports photographers love this city and its inhabitants, and they’re here to celebrate the losses and mourn the defeats, just like the rest of us.