Photographers' Blog

Inside an NFL Locker Room

By Jason Reed, Larry Downing and Molly Riley

Hey football fans… imagine walking past the solid steel doors guarding the locker room outside one of the National Football League’s most treasured teams and standing inside watching 60 professional athletes preparing to take the spotlight in front of 70,000 expecting Baltimore fans.

Talk about fantasy football coming true; that ultimate “back stage pass” was given to Reuters’ photographers Jason Reed, Larry Downing and Molly Riley from the Baltimore Ravens as an early Christmas present last December, extending them complete photographic access of their cheerleaders during the production of an in-depth multimedia project by Reuters entitled, “Ravens Rule the Skies.”

(Image courtesy of Shawn Hubbard)

Three unobstructed first class seats inside Cinderella’s wonderland watching “girly girls” primp and polish their image into higher splendor while transforming themselves into NFL cheerleaders. All with total access!

“This was one of those assignments envied by many” said Riley, whose mission was to go where no man has walked and to bring back photographic souvenirs from “the forbidden zone of a cheerleader’s locker room.” “The moment I stepped behind the curtain I was overwhelmed… shocked at the abundance of chaotic activity… even as a woman I found it difficult to concentrate,” she said. “At a certain point I had to leave to clear my head.”

“Not an easy environment for working,” according to Downing. “A collection of so many beautiful girls at once stunned all courageous actions leaving me intimidated every time I wanted to approach one. I was never able to overcome my nervous, school boy giggles,” he explained.

Cheering on an aging Japan

When I first heard there was a 78-year old cheerleader in Japan who wears metallic silver wigs and waves gold pom-poms as she jumps and dances in her shiny red sequined costume, it instantly made me curious to find out what kind of person she is.

Japan's cheerleaders.  REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Everyone knows by now that people in Japan live a long time. According to the World Health Organization’s latest life expectancy figures Japanese women remain at number one (life expectancy: 86 years), but I had never heard of an 80-year-old cheerleader.

Fumie Takino’s way of life seemed to be the key.

My first encounter with her was at her gymnasium, which takes her an hour to get to by bus and train. Upon meeting her I was immediately struck by her big smile and how open she was to let me photograph her practice session with her teammates.

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