Stacy Revere’s serendipitous path to sports photography

‘I got into photography because I know how to hang sheetrock — that’s not an exaggeration’

“I grew up with MJ [Michael Jordan] but then Kobe came along, and he was my guy,” said Stacy Revere, who snapped this shot on Feb. 4, 2016, in New Orleans. “I’m a pretty big guy and I anchored myself so that no one could push me out of the way. I wanted to get a picture of him leaving because I felt like he would be retiring soon. I wanted to honor him the best way I could.”

Native American sports photographer Stacy Revere is always on the move. In March alone, he flew out to the Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, to photograph the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open before traveling to Chicago to shoot the men’s NCAA tournament Midwest Regional. At the end of the month, he touched down in San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open before traveling home to Milwaukee.

“I was talking to my 15-year-old daughter last night about how sometimes this still doesn’t seem real. Is this really my life now? Is this what I do? It is and it’s so bizarre at times,” Revere, 51, said. The self-taught photographer got into the industry by pure serendipity. In 2008, while rebuilding homes in New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Revere met Chris Graythen, a Getty Images staff photographer. Through their friendship, Revere got a front-row view of the news photography business.

Folkus is an ongoing series created with Getty Images that features Black photographers who put the focus on folks like us.

Revere seized the moment, learning the mechanics of photography and mastering the challenges of shooting a wide range of sports. Since 2020, Revere has worked as a staff sports photographer at Getty Images, covering multiple Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals and UFC cards. He has also focused his coverage on issues affecting Native communities. Revere has seen firsthand the impact of systemic racism perpetrated against his people, starting with his family.

“I grew up with limited means and no formal education beyond high school, and now here I am,” Revere said. “I get to make pictures, to travel and see different places like Rio and South Korea. These are things I never thought was even possible for somebody like me.”

Here Revere reflects on his unlikely journey that first began in New Orleans.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant scored his 30,000th point on Dec. 5, 2012, making him the fifth player in the NBA to reach this achievement. “I had to get that shot,” said Stacy Revere, who had just started shooting NBA games. “Kobe did a little pivot and as he went to make the basket, the referee walked right in front of me so I missed the shot. I couldn’t believe it! But I did get a picture off the remote camera.”

Can you describe what it was like growing up in New Orleans in the 1980s?

I always say New Orleans is my first love. It’s the beauty of the architecture and the people are so much fun to be around. There are so many little quirks in the city and at any given moment, it could all go into the water — which it did in 2005. We’ve always lived knowing it was possible and that didn’t change anything. The spirit of the city is amazing.

I’m from the Mid-City/Lakeview area, at the foot of Canal Street where the cemeteries are. Growing up in New Orleans in the ’80s, there was nothing like it. We’d go to different neighborhoods and everybody was the same. It’s a little different for me as a Native American because there aren’t that many of us, but it was still the gumbo they talk about. People call New Orleans ‘The City That Care Forgot,’ and I think that’s pretty accurate. Everybody is laid back and relaxed, not worried about little things. They don’t stress out too hard, and it will get done; sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s bad.

Can you speak about your ancestral heritage and how this impacted your family?

My father is from the Bayou Lacomb Choctaw Indians. It’s a very small band. Years ago, when they were relocated to Philadelphia, Mississippi and Oklahoma, several families just said, ‘No. We’re going to go somewhere else,’ and settled on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. They lived out in the woods off the beaten path. My dad wasn’t allowed to go to school with white kids, so he never got an education.

My mother was from the Mississippi Delta and grew up on a sharecropping farm. She was mixed, but I don’t think she really knew her heritage. They were very poor people and I don’t think they kept track of things like that. Part of the damage done over those years is that neither my mother nor father had the tools to become nurturing parents. My dad left when I was very young and my mother did the best she could with what she had. From what I know of their lives, it was difficult. When you’re thrown aside at a young age, it leaves a mark that’s hard to overcome. I don’t fault them. I didn’t walk in their shoes.

Helio Castroneves celebrates at the Indianapolis 500
Helio Castroneves won the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 — his fourth win in 20 years. “This was an amazing moment,” said Stacy Revere, photographing the legendary race for the first time. “Helio is an older guy and he wasn’t expected to win. He was without a team until late 2020 when he was hired to drive the second car for Meyer Shank Racing to provide leadership. When he won, the place went crazy.”
How did you become interested in photography?

While I was on a road trip in 1995, I bought a camera in New York City. The salesman thought I played for the Giants because I am big and back then I was younger and in shape. But I was just a hippie trying to buy a camera because I was camping out for six months. I shot a bunch of film, then I came back and life went on. For a long time, I worked offshore on tugboats. Then Hurricane Katrina happened. I had 12 or 15 feet of water in my house. It was destroyed. In late October, trucks with front-end loaders came by and all of my belongings — my clothing, my pictures, my furniture — ended up in the back of a dumpster. I thought, ‘What am I doing with my life? I’m chasing nonsense and now it’s all gone.’ In that darkest moment, I realized, ‘There has to be more to life.’

I didn’t jump into anything too quickly. I took my time, rebuilt my house and some others. I got into photography because I know how to hang Sheetrock — that’s not an exaggeration. That’s how I met Getty photographer Chris Graythen. I saw the whole process and I was amazed. It wasn’t just the pictures — it was running back to the media room after a game, banging away on computers, and getting moving pictures on the wire. I started assisting him at basketball games for the New Orleans Hornets and then tagged along to some football games. From there I started freelancing in 2011.

Joey Logano
“These guys are phenomenal athletes,” said Stacy Revere, who adjusted the camera’s shutter speed to capture the power, speed and intensity of the NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway on June 10, 2019. “You wouldn’t think a sport like this would lend itself to pretty pictures, but it does. It’s a beautiful sport to photograph.”
Tai Tuivasa lands a punch on Greg Hardy at UFC 264
“I don’t like to see people get beat up but I appreciate the mentality it takes to be a UFC fighter,” said Stacy Revere, who photographed Tai Tuivasa punching Greg Hardy in the first round of UFC 264 on July 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women who get into that cage, because you are fighting until you can’t fight anymore.”
What do you love most about sports photography?

The human emotion. I am genuinely happy when other people succeed. Whether it’s a golf tournament, a clutch basket, a touchdown pass or even a first down at a critical moment, I love the emotion that comes from that — that ability to transform thousands of people just by shooting a basketball. I now live in Milwaukee and shoot the Bucks all the time. The joy that Giannis Antetokounmpo or any of the Bucks make people feel, to have 80,000 people cheering for you is powerful to see.

There’s a full range of emotions, the highs and the lows, and it all happens in two hours. Some of these stories are so unbelievable, you couldn’t have written them. Like when Helio Castroneves won the Indy 500 last year. The week before that I was in Kiawah Island on the green when Phil Mickelson became the oldest golfer to win the PGA Championship. You never know what’s going to happen.

Anthony Davis
Stacy Revere wanted to photograph then-New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis in a different light. Revere took out a 400mm lens and photographed Davis in deep thought on the bench against the Indiana Pacers at Smoothie King Center on Jan. 8, 2016. “I had this idea in mind and it worked,” Revere said. “This is exactly how I wanted it to look. I was pretty close to him but he had no idea I was taking the picture.”
What is the most challenging aspect of sports photography?

A lot of it is understanding human nature and being able to read people’s body language and emotions so you have an idea of what they are going to do. Usually people will tell you everything you need to know without saying a word. With Giannis, he’s so passionate you know he’s going to do something crazy athletic at some point during the game and you have to stay with him. But Aaron Rodgers isn’t particularly emotional, so that’s a tougher one. You have to pay attention and watch them when they aren’t involved in a play. You see how they react in the beginning so you can try to predict what they will do if something big happens, but it’s never 100% accurate.

Candace Parker was amazing in the WNBA championship. Watching her, you could see it building and building throughout the game. I felt like, if they win this game, she’s going to explode — and she did. You could see the disappointment if they missed a shot or when they’re trying to control it but not doing a great job. You pay close attention to their body language and facial expressions and you start to figure it out.

Michael Phelps during the 2016 Olympic Trials
“After Michael Phelps retired in 2012, he came back and I think this was his first time in the pool in a competitive setting, so it was a big moment,” Stacy Revere said of a men’s 200-meter individual medley semifinal at U.S. Olympic team trials on June 30, 2016. “I was looking for a moment that spoke to me. This one was where he looks the most powerful, intense and badass. It’s intimidating, fierce, competitive.”

Figure skater Gracie Gold
Stacy Revere got the call to photograph the Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Chicago while shooting the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. “Jamie Squire, a staff photographer and mentor, told me that there was a free skate at the very end that was more dramatic and theatrical so I could be more creative,” said Revere, who photographed Gracie Gold of the United States on Oct. 23, 2016. “This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.”
Can you speak about the importance of covering Native communities and bringing their stories to light given the ways they have been misrepresented or erased from view?

Murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls is an issue that plagues Native communities. Last summer, after Gabby Petito went missing in Wyoming, there was a lot of attention but there has been no outcry for the more than 700 Native women and girls who have gone missing in the same state between 2011 and 2020. How does that get overlooked? There’s not a lot of action from law enforcement and that’s disheartening.

Genoa Indian School In Nebraska
“The remains of 215 children were found in a mass grave near Kamloops Indian Residential School in [British Columbia] Canada, and then a couple of weeks later, at least 750 unmarked graves were found at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan,” said Stacy Revere, who photographed the former Genoa U.S. Indian School in Nebraska, where at least 100 Native American children died. “This is 2021 and they’re just now getting around to identifying them.”

Indian schools are another issue. For over a century, the U.S. government forced more than 100,000 Native children to attend boarding schools where they were stripped of their culture, languages and religions. They estimate up to 40,000 kids died in these schools. This is a 20th-century problem that was still happening in Canada until the ’90s. Many kids were horribly abused, beaten and molested, raped and killed. I think about the people who survived and were left to pick up the pieces. It brings back memories of my father, where you are told you are worthless your entire life. He didn’t have the tools to exist in the world we live in. You look at the Declaration of Independence where Thomas Jefferson called us ‘merciless Indian savages.’ I’m 51, and when I grew up, we didn’t learn any of this.

Menominee Indian Boxing Club
After finding the Menominee Indian Boxing Club online last year, Stacy Revere asked if he could take some photographs on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Keshena, Wisconsin. “Ayanna is only 12 or 13, but she is a serious amateur boxer with the potential to enter the Golden Gloves,” Revere said. “She’s a great kid and a serious advocate for murdered and missing Indigenous women. I have a 15-year-old daughter, so that really hits home for me.”
What is it like being one of the few Native photographers working in professional sports?

The Washington Redskins didn’t change their name until July 2020. I think these are the stories where it matters most who’s behind the camera. Having a real connection to the stories allows us to see it with a different approach and a heightened sensitivity to the people involved. What bothered me is that this would never be allowed for any other group of people. Chief Wahoo was the mascot for the Cleveland Indians until they finally phased him out completely at the end of 2021. They just changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians, starting this season. I remember seeing a picture of a white guy dressed up as Chief Wahoo and I was so angry. It was so disgraceful.

For so long, it was easy to mock, marginalize, disqualify and dismiss Natives — and that’s how you end up with thousands of dead Native children and missing Native girls and no one cares. Every time a story about the graves came out, I sat there with tears in my eyes thinking about these kids that were just tossed in the ground — and for what? That’s why I stay with it. I want these stories to be told.

Stacy Revere is a self-taugh photographer raised in New Orleans, but he now calls Milwaukee home. He has covered an array of sporting events, including multiple Olympics, Super Bowls, golf majors, the World Series, NBA Finals, Indianapolis 500 and UFC. Revere works to bring attention to issues affecting Native communities, including MMIWG2S.

Photo of Stacy by Tala Revere | Story text by Miss Rosen

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer focusing on art, photography, and culture. Her work has been published in Time, Vogue, Artsy, Aperture, and Dazed, among others.