Monday, December 16, 2019

Section 36 Photography Month: Baseball Card Photography

As we continue Photography Month here at Section 36, I wanted to cover a topic that gets me all twisted in knots when I think about it. 

Photography on baseball cards.

This is one of those topics where whenever I really consider it, I end up questioning the hobby itself, and my involvement in it. For instance, I hear lots of other people comment on the photography on baseball cards. They might think a picture is cropped too closely, or it's too dark, or it’s a boring pose. My first reaction to those is often, "who cares what the picture is's just a card". Which then means, I'm collecting pictures of baseball players where I don't care about the picture?


What I think it comes down to is that I'm considering cards almost to be ID cards. Photo on the front, player stats on the back. So, I'm not collecting the pictures as much as I am the package. The picture is just a way for me to visually identify the player discussed on the back.

It feels like Topps treats cards the same way. For their flagship set at least. In fact, the point is pretty well driven home by their creation of the Stadium Club set. This set was designed to showcase great pictures. Or “different” pictures. Or both. That would suggest that they don't expect the pictures to be the story on their flagship set. Just a way to ID the player.

Until, they don't. 

I could understand all the tightly cropped shots of pitchers pitching and hitters hitting if they didn't throw in a shot of JBJ in a full on dive to make a catch. That's not a way for me to recognize Bradley Jr. (Unless that's actually the best way to ID JBJ?) So whenever Topps tosses in a great action shot, it makes me wonder why all the other pictures are the same. Even though that's exactly what I want and expect. 

It's even tougher to justify when they use a terrible picture. One that doesn't really show the player at all. Maybe just his back while making a play. Or in a multi player shot. That's not the way to get me to recognize the player either.

So, I like the way Topps generally treats the sets. Closely cropped body shots for the flagship, and let Stadium Club have some fun and flex photographic muscle. It really does allow for the best of both worlds.

And helps me justify my hobby.

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