Simon Willms – Minor League

Dates: September 6 – 30, 2012
Location: United Photo Industries HQ | 111 Front Street, Suite 204

Young athletes are a compelling and recurring subject in my portrait photography, in particular Dominican amateur baseball players. Realizing a career in professional baseball is a long shot that entices scores of youngsters in many Caribbean and Central American countries. These portraits are meant as a tribute to youth and they originate from my desire to explore my own youth and interest in sport. I endeavor to represent a strength of character in the subject, as well as the uncertainty that naturally arises in adolescence.

Major league teams have “farms” in Santo Domingo and San Pedro that source out and cultivate new talent. It is at these baseball diamonds that many players hope to realize their lifelong dream of making it to the major leagues. My images were taken at a vulnerable point in many of these young peoples’ lives, between childhood and adulthood, their future uncertain. Whether or not they are destined to play professional baseball is yet to be decided; living the dream proves too enticing.

With this series, I represent the players in context, showing the environment/the world where they play and live. I wanted the final composition to be spare and direct. The results are more similar to formal portraiture rather than sport photography which tends to present its subject in the act of play.

Simon Willms was the recipient of THE FENCE Jury Grand Prize (2012), for his series Minor League.

Simon Willms was born in Huntsville, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto. Willms graduated from McMaster University with a major in Anthropology, and has traveled widely on assignment and for personal projects in the US, Canada, and Eastern Africa. He has worked for Canadian NGO Salama SHIELD in Zimbabwe and Uganda and has worked for various publications including The Globe and Mail, SPIN, and The Walrus. He has exhibited various projects in North America, and was most recently part of a group show called Becoming at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Willms has always been interested in making images that represent strength and energy in the subject matter and has admired and been influenced by the work of Rineke Dijkstra for the youthful energy in her photography. His current series of Dominican baseball players represents the vulnerability, strength and potential that is inherent in being young.

Willms currently teaches sociology and photography in Ontario while working on various photographic projects.