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As subtle as this image of Cyrus Kouandjio is, it speaks volumes…
Cyrus Kouandjio puts down his signing pen, no ink dispelled, while the rest of his DeMatha teammates sign their college commitment papers. ESPN ranks Cyrus Kouandjio as the third best high school player in the nation, and there’s been a buzz about who he’s committing to. He’s kept four schools on the list, but the main contenders are Auburn and Alabama. — the later is where his older brother Arie Kouandjio plays. Family (sibling rivalry?) clearly plays a role in Cyrus’s decision.
Moments before putting his unused pen down,the words “Auburn” came out of Cyrus Kouandjio’s mouth. This proclamation was recorded live in front of rolling news cameras. But because he decided not to “sign his life away,” as head coach and the school’s athletic director Bill McGregor joked moments before, internet speculation remains weather he will stay true to his word or possibly commit to Alabama and play along side (replace? be replaced by?) his older brother, Arie. But then again, he’s been talking up New Mexico, too.
UPDATE: Cyrus, as of February 6th, the Holiest of football days, committed to Alabama. Read about it here. I wrote most of this the day of the shoot. So, it might come off a little retrospective.
Y’know? Sometimes the drama doesn’t belong to us photojournalists. And sometimes the real story is hiding in plain sight.
This is my first assignment with USA Today, and I really wanted to blow them away. I hate to sound like a defeatist, but most news conferences are let downs for us visual types. — especially if there’s a bevy of video shooters barricading the middle. Don’t get me wrong, I respect most of them and usually really like the ones I meet. …but truth is, they get in us still photogs’ way as much as we get in theirs.
In the past, I’ve had some pretty good luck making something outta nothing at news conferences. I’ve learned to shoot the emotion. But this kid wasn’t really showing any. Everytime it made sense for Cyrus to smile…
“I’m choosing Auburn!”
…he remained stoic.
At the time I thought I understood why: y’know? He’s a football player. A lot of them don’t smile when the spot light’s on them, right?
***Keep in mind, at this point I didn’t know he was waffling on his decision***
So, what was I going to shoot?
…any semblance of emotion? Was there any?
After Cyrus Kouandjio made his live announcement the football players exited stage left, to let the soccer players have their time in the spotlight. He got hugs from his parents. Friends and classmates high-fived him, but Cyrus Kouandjio quickly ate any smiles.
Proud Mom (above). Proud Dad (Below).
He was all nerves. And that’s what I kept making pictures of. — all the while I’m thinking: USA Today is NOT going to be impressed by these mediocre, uncelebratory images of Cyrus Kouandjio. Cyrus wasn’t the only guy not smiling. sheesh! Talk about using up all my deodorant.
So, I walked away from the press conference, a little bummed my CF Cards’ guts weren’t sparkling with gold! (I’m not really sure what that means… just go with it).
Then when I went online to do a little caption research, I found out he never signed his commitment letter!
So, I went back through my take and realized I totally shot the emotion! It just wasn’t what I was expecting. Cyrus Kouandjio wasn’t being stoic. He was uneasy!
Not to say these images are amazing, by any means, but they’re definitely telling. With the right word treatment (headline, caption info) I think his body language speaks volumes about what he’s feeling at that moment.
This one looks like Cyrus Kouandjio is about to sign, but at the request of the video guys, all the players were asked to hold their pens as if they’re signing, but to look up. The above photo was made moments before the video folks requested some staged fakery. Who knows? Maybe all that time not dedicated to signing might’ve been the the tipping point for Cyrus Kouandjio… I wonder what was going on in his head during that moment of TV magic?
I shouldn’t be too cynical towards the video peeps. I totally used that pregnant pause to see if any more emotions were gonna well up in him. …and I really like stealing the light used by video guys and gals.
There was very little celebrating for Cyrus Kouandjio. He didn’t pull out an Auburn hat and raise his finger in the air (NUMBER 1!!!). Look. He’s the only one of his teammates not brandishing some kind of college paraphernalia. I bet there was a battle going on in his head:
NOTE: Unfortunately, the photos have not/yet to run. I guess that makes sense. The AP has a pretty good lit portrait of him floating around. The signing day drama’s over. Cyrus Kouandjio ultimately made his decision …and now his parents only have to drive to one campus.
For more images (and licensing opportunities), check out this gallery: http://mattrothphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/Cyrus-Kouandjio-Signing-Day/G0000wsBEmykQM1o