Award-winning photographer Eric Melzer‘s latest personal project, “Possibility,” explores hope and the power of play during times of social and climate crisis. The project, which won a Graphis Photography 2023 Platinum award, features an athlete in the sun and clouds, representing the feeling of possibility before stepping onto the court—or behind the camera. In this exclusive interview, Eric shares his inspiration for the project, the meticulous planning that went into it, and the challenges of capturing the perfect shot.
By: Eric Melzer
“Late last summer, I decided I wanted to explore a new iteration of a personal editorial series I’ve been working on for two years about the ‘Importance of Play During Times of Social and Climate Crisis.’ In that award-winning work, I used heavy, late-evening shadows to represent recent personal and societal struggles and sunny summer clouds to express our hopes. Community play happens in the tension in between. It’s that place where we get together with friends to forget all the struggles around us.
“I wanted to focus only on hope in this new, conceptual evolution of that more journalistic work. I was feeling life’s weight starting to lift and spotted that happening around me. I wanted to put an athlete in the sun and clouds in ‘possibility.’
“I’d photographed an incredible basketball player and all-around athlete in that previous series and asked if he would be game to model. I gave him an image to work with in his mind: the feeling of possibility that he has when he walks onto the basketball court before he plays. It’s the same possibility I feel when I look through the viewfinder before a shoot.
“I planned meticulously, studying the location I wanted to shoot, the exact angle and feel of light, and the types of clouds that tended to move through the sky on early fall evenings. After weeks our schedules and the weather lined up. It was perfect.
“He took direction exceptionally well, but I knew that despite being in incredible shape, he would only be able to jump so many times because it’s physically demanding. I was keenly aware of keeping him safe from injury on his landings as he tired out.
“Early on, I noticed that the image was most powerful when he and the ball were on opposite sides of the frame. I wanted that tension between the two. It emphasized possibility. We practiced, and after some great teamwork, we landed an entire series of successful images. In my mind, this frame, which, for the record, is not a composite, is the best of the two shoots we did that week. It most closely expresses what we set out to say.”