The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

A peek behind the lens of Peter Power

August 12, 2021

Award-winning photojournalist Peter Power has an eye for storytelling.

Positioned behind the baseline for Félix Auger-Aliassime’s Centre Court match on Wednesday morning, he was in prime real estate to capture much of what he needed. Working with the team at Tennis Canada for this year’s tournament, he’s sure to snap tons of wide-angle photos that include the crowd and scenery but admits his signature style is naturally more inclined towards closer images that focus more on the face, racquet and ball.

“I try to give them those really tight action photos with lots of sweat spraying, good expressions, grimacing, smiling, sweat coming off the hands, the ball hitting the racquet and fuzz flying in the air,” said Power. “You don’t see that stuff in the (wider) pictures. We wanted to get those really strong sporting images of Felix, but we also wanted to make sure we’re getting the overall stadium, the facility and fans in the seats, things like that.”

Power is in his fifth year working the tournament and his first year as lead photographer overseeing a group that includes fellow award-winning veteran Tyler Anderson, up-and-coming talent Gyles Dias and star photo editor Christopher Tanouye. The team typically starts the day between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. on the schedule. With the evening sessions starting at 7:00 p.m., they are on site until the day is finished which can sometimes go until midnight.

“It’s long days and everybody’s working hard,” said Power. “At the end of the night, I keep telling the guys, ‘You go home, I’ll cover the last match,’ but nobody wants to leave. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and fantastic attitudes. Everyone is just happy to be part of the team.”

Making sure they are covering everything happening at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers and doing it well, is the name of the game for Power and the team. Depending on the scale of the match and court it’s being played on, they could have between one and all three photographers taking pictures. In addition to shooting from behind the server and from the photo pit, photographers also have access to the roof to shoot from above.

Photo : Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canada

The team is also capturing off-court action of athletes training and socializing. For a photographer working an event like this, “flexibility is key,” says Power. Special requests often come in as well. On Wednesday morning, he rushed out to shoot Daniil Medvedev arriving in a BMW.

Prior to joining the tournament for the first time in 2016, Power had photographed the event during the 17 and a half years he was with the Toronto Star and seven-plus years at the Globe and Mail. He started working independently in 2014 and now runs his own photography business and teaches at Humber College. As the photography lead, he’s also tasked with making sure photographers from other outlets are observing COVID-19 protocol. Thankfully there haven’t been any major issues.

Power’s portfolio includes a wide body of work ranging from wildlife to fashion. He’s been shooting sports since the start of his career and covering events like the Olympics and World Figure Skating Championships. Power has won four National Newspaper Awards, one of which was for sports photography and has been nominated nine times. For him, the job is less about taking pictures and more about capturing a narrative as it unfolds.

“It’s about storytelling,” said Power. “You can have one athlete in competition, another athlete in conversation with a coach, another one relaxing on the lawn, two players laughing together—Anything that will say this is the life of the athlete from the moment they arrive until the moment they go home in the evening. It’s good to be able to capture those different moments to sort of encompass the whole story.”

COVID-19 has impacted the way photographers are able to do their job. Off court, facial expressions tell a very important part of the story but are hard to capture behind a mask.

Photo : Peter Power

In previous years at the event, photographers have had a lot of access to athletes but with the new safety protocols in place, much of that has been limited, but there has been a silver lining.

The concourse area behind the main building that in previous years was lined with kiosks, restaurants and filled with patrons is now a restricted area. This year it has been converted into an athlete recreation area with a tent, workout equipment and a large green lawn space for them and their families to enjoy. It’s become a great area for photographers to grab some behind-the-scenes candid’s of the tournament’s stars.

“I think they’re enjoying that space tremendously,” said Power. “They’ve been doing everything from throwing a football around, kicking a soccer ball, playing with beanbags and just generally enjoying the weather. There are tables where some of the family or spouses are sitting and there are strollers, things like that. It’s quite neat to see. We’re enjoying seeing them in it and taking pictures of them there. So, we lost one thing this year, but we sort of gained another one.”

As photographers on court, they are always thinking about angles, so a lot goes into choosing spots at the top of a match such as projecting where the players are going to go and taking background imagery into account. When it comes to capturing off-court action, it’s more about being a fly on the wall and gaining a connection with the subject that creates the magic every shutterbug is looking for.

“With the athletes, they’re very accustomed to having photographers and media around them so they kind of see and just go about their thing,” said Power. “There’s no real stealth or anything involved. If they get distracted by you for a moment, you just kind of stick to your guns, keep doing what you’re doing. They go back to normal and the real moments come back and your pictures just get better.”