Photo op of a life­time

Te­jeda’s work catches eye of sox’ an­der­son, who hires him to be per­sonal pho­tog­ra­pher

Chicago Sun-Times - - BASEBALL - BY AN­NIE COSTABILE | acosta­bile@sun­times.com | @an­niecosta­bile

Chris Te­jeda’s fa­vorite spot to shoot photos at Guar­an­teed Rate Field is down the third-base line, in the stands be­tween the base and the foul pole.

This isn’t ex­actly a cov­eted spot for other sports pho­tog­ra­phers who typ­i­cally shoot from the photo well ad­ja­cent to first and third base. But this spot, shoul­der-to-shoul­der with fans, is spe­cial to Te­jeda.

This is the sec­tion where he de­buted as a pho­tog­ra­pher the same sum­mer the White Sox called up Tim An­der­son. Hav­ing a ca­reer as a pho­tog­ra­pher was a fun dream then, an es­cape from his overnight job un­load­ing ship­ment trucks for Tar­get.

Te­jeda never imag­ined that a year later, his pas­sion would turn into a part-time gig with the Sox and later evolve into an un­be­liev­able op­por­tu­nity as An­der­son’s ex­clu­sive pho­tog­ra­pher, cap­tur­ing the quin­tes­sen­tial bat flip mo­ment that ended up be­ing a turn­ing point in both of their ca­reers.

“I was look­ing for things to shoot, so in 2016, I started bring­ing my cam­era to games,” Te­jeda said. “The next sea­son, I bought a Ball­park pass. I had one ticket to ev­ery home game in May, and I would shoot from the stands. By the third game I shot, TA started post­ing my photos and giv­ing me photo credit.”

The Bridgeport na­tive grew up play­ing base­ball, and the Sox were al­ways his fa­vorite team.

A vivid Sox mem­ory for Te­jeda is from 2005. His dad, Gabriel, handed him and his two sib­lings brooms af­ter the Sox swept the Astros to claim their third World Series cham­pi­onship and the first in 88 sea­sons. Gabriel marched his kids out­side to South Archer Av­enue to cel­e­brate, brooms in tow.

His mem­o­ries of the Sox and base­ball are the rea­sons he started at 35th and Shields when he em­barked on his new ca­reer in pho­tog­ra­phy.

Te­jeda’s in­stincts were right be­cause be­fore his Ball­park pass ex­pired in 2017, the Sox of­fered him a po­si­tion with their in­flu­encer program, which evolved into a so­cial­me­dia pho­tog­ra­pher po­si­tion in 2019.

As he devel­oped his pho­tog­ra­phy skills and es­tab­lished a unique style of edit­ing, Te­jeda formed a sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ship with An­der­son.

The pair worked to­gether at random events, mostly au­to­graph sign­ings, and An­der­son would share Te­jeda’s photos on his so­cial-me­dia plat­forms.

“I al­ways liked his work,” An­der­son said. “I liked that his style, the dark ef­fects would make my body pop a lit­tle bit more. All of his work all around was just dif­fer­ent.”

Te­jeda and An­der­son so­lid­i­fied their work­ing re­la­tion­ship in Jan­uary at SoxFest.

An­der­son, who was stay­ing at a ho­tel near McCormick Place, called Te­jeda and in­vited him up to his room to hang out with him and his fam­ily.

Te­jeda walked in and nearly tripped over an un­mis­tak­ably large box on the floor.

An­der­son told him in­side was his 2019 Rod Carew Award, given to the Amer­i­can League bat­ting cham­pion, and asked if Te­jeda would take a few photos of him with it.

“As we were tak­ing those photos, our vibe was just flow­ing,” Te­jeda said. “That was our first time in­ter­act­ing on a per­sonal level, and we re­lated to each other so much more than we ever thought.”

Af­ter tak­ing the photos, the two came to an agree­ment that Te­jeda would be An­der­son’s full-time pho­tog­ra­pher. Te­jeda gave his two weeks’ no­tice to Tar­get, and a few weeks later, he was at Camel­back Ranch in Glendale, Ari­zona, shoot­ing be­hind-the-scenes con­tent of An­der­son dur­ing spring train­ing.

Te­jeda and An­der­son have devel­oped a sig­na­ture style. Te­jeda cred­its An­der­son for en­cour­ag­ing him to em­brace the edit­ing choices that set him apart.

The turn­ing point in Te­jeda’s ca­reer came April 17, 2019 — the Bat-Flip Game.

Te­jeda cap­tured An­der­son’s bat flip on a home run against the Roy­als with a se­quence of photos that ended up be­ing shared on Ma­jor League Base­ball’s so­cial-me­dia plat­forms and by me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment com­pany Com­plex. Te­jeda re­called feel­ing like his sig­na­ture dark edit was be­ing ac­knowl­edged and ap­pre­ci­ated for its unique­ness. Much like An­der­son was em­brac­ing what set him apart in base­ball, so was Te­jeda in pho­tog­ra­phy.

“TA is break­ing down that bar­rier and show­ing kids just be you,” Te­jeda said. “What can they say? You put the work in; you’re in con­trol. Once they re­al­ize that, they’re deadly.”

Thanks to Twit­ter, In­sta­gram and YouTube, fans are no longer con­sum­ing ex­clu­sive con­tent strictly through team out­lets, and the list of pro­fes­sional ath­letes who are pro­duc­ing their own con­tent is lengthy.

Whether it’s the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird and U.S. women’s na­tional team for­ward Me­gan Rapi­noe cre­at­ing their own In­sta­gram Live show, “A Touch More,” or the New Jersey Devils’ P.K. Sub­ban rack­ing up over 70,000 YouTube sub­scribers, ath­letes are tak­ing own­er­ship of their sto­ries.

There might be no greater ex­am­ple than LeBron James and busi­ness part­ner Mav­er­ick Carter, who founded SpringHill En­ter­tain­ment in 2007 and re­cently signed a twoyear deal with ABC Stu­dios.

For An­der­son, who said he has drawn in­spi­ra­tion from James, con­trol­ling his nar­ra­tive is what he finds so ap­peal­ing.

“I al­ways re­spected the way [LeBron] han­dled his busi­ness on and off the court,” An­der­son said. “I am the per­son do­ing these things, so it’s only right that I con­trol [the con­tent] and al­low peo­ple to see me how I want them to.”

An­der­son re­cently wiped his en­tire YouTube chan­nel, leav­ing noth­ing but a but­ton to sub­scribe. He al­ready has over 13,000 sub­scribers and plans to show them a more per­sonal look at who he is off the field.

One of An­der­son’s driv­ing forces for shar­ing per­son­al­ized videos on his plat­forms was to in­spire his young fans and fans back home who he said don’t watch base­ball.

An­der­son had plans to bring Te­jeda to his home­town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to shoot a video show­ing fans where he grew up. The pan­demic put that on hold, but An­der­son hopes they’ll make the video this off­sea­son.

As for the re­launch of the TA7 YouTube chan­nel, An­der­son said fans should sub­scribe be­cause more ex­clu­sive con­tent is on the way.

“I got their at­ten­tion,” he said. ✶

AN­NIE COSTABILE/SUN-TIMES

Chris Te­jeda, a Bridgeport na­tive, grew up play­ing base­ball and watch­ing the White Sox.

CHRIS TE­JEDA, PRO­VIDED

Tim An­der­son’s bat flip was part of a se­quence of photos taken by Chris Te­jeda, whose work was shared by mul­ti­ple out­lets. An­der­son (top) sits with his 2019 AL bat­ting cham­pion tro­phy dur­ing SoxFest in Jan­uary. Te­jeda (above) and An­der­son share a mo­ment at Guar­an­teed Rate Field.

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