In 2002, Tabitha Soren first began photographing a group of minor league draft picks for the Oakland A’s—young men coming into the major league farm system straight from high school or college. Since then, she has followed the players through their baseball lives, an alternate reality of long bus rides, on-field injuries, friendships and marriages entered and exited, constant motion, and very hard work, often for very little return. Some of the subjects, like Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton, have gone on to become well-known, respected players at the highest level of the game. Some left baseball to pursue other lines of work, such as selling insurance and coal mining. Others have struggled with poverty and even homelessness.
Fifteen years after that first shoot, FANTASY LIFE, published by the Aperture Foundation, portrays a selection of these stories, gathering together a richly textured series of photographs taken on the field and behind the scenes at games, along with commentaries by each of the players and memorabilia from their lives—from kindergarten-age baseball cards to x-rays of player injuries.
Dave Eggers contributes a five-part short story that compellingly condenses the roller-coaster ride of the minor-league everyman, from the youthful pursuit of stardom through the slog of endless hardscrabble games, to that moment of realization that success may not be just around the corner after all. Additionally, a number of the featured players add their own real-life experiences of trying to make it to “The Show.” Together, these elements evoke the enduring spirit of this quintessential American fantasy of making it in the major leagues.
The images in PANIC BEACH are taken in response to the random tumultuousness of the human experience - they serve as metaphor for the difficult twists and turns of everyday living. The compelling colors and patterns of the ocean may draw viewers in, but the ferocity and brutality of the water are lurking too. Each photo blurs the distinctions between earth and sky, flat and deep, which is how unbalanced we feel when a crisis hits.
RUNNING is about our shared instinct to survive. Archetypal figures struggle to escape or arrive – the viewer cannot be sure. Elemental fears like uncertainty, chaos and vulnerability are made visible. Movement provides an opportunity for loss of control, un-self-consciousness. The figures stumble, grimace and lose composure. They are both wounded and heroic.
Available in hardcover and deluxe editions