FROM USA TODAY…
Steven Jackson is entering his eleventh season in the NFL, but the three-time Pro Bowler will be making his rookie debut in Los Angeles next weekend.
The Atlanta Falcons running back will premiere his first-ever photography exhibit, “Looking Forward: Running Back,” at the Hamilton-Selway Fine Art gallery in West Hollywood from July 17-20. While it’s Jackson’s first time showing his work to the public, he’s been taking pictures from his travels all over the world for the past eight years.
“Every offseason I pick a region in the world and explore it for months at a time sometimes,” Jackson told For The Win. “Over my travels and these explorations I’ve been going on, I’ve been documenting with photographs and I was just using them for memory’s sake and my own personal use. One night I was having dinner with [artist] Michael Kalish and sharing some of my recent photos from China, Hong Kong and Japan. He asked me, ‘You’re really good at this, have you ever thought about sharing this with the world?’”
Now entering his second year with the Atlanta Falcons, Jackson really caught the travel bug after his sophomore season with the St. Louis Rams in 2006. He says that’s he’s been to nearly every part of the world he’d like to see with the exception of several countries in North Africa and the Mediterranean area. His all-time favorite destinations include a safari trip to Botswana and an excursion to northeast Australia.
As he began documenting his travels, he’s alternated his lens between natural landscapes, historic artifacts and the people who live in the places he visits. Unlike in the United States, where he’s often recognized as an NFL star, Jackson can often hide behind the camera overseas rather than be the object of them.
“I like catching people in the moment. I don’t like poses. I like to just catch live action and people not guarded. Everyday scenery. Just life in itself,” Jackson said. “In these photographs, if you have the chance to see them, it speaks to life. It speaks to life the way I see it. Some things are the way I have the mindset on the football field as a warrior. Some of it is tranquility, which I seek. I’m a homebody, which I enjoy being with my family and stillness, which is the center of my household. My faith is just to be one with God and one with myself. It’s a mixture of all the things and emotions that we all go through in life.”
While Jackson’s interest in photography has accelerated over the past decade, he’s been passionate about art since a love of Saturday morning cartoons got him into drawing and painting as a kid. Jackson lists Michaelangelo, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Las Vegas photographer Peter Lik as some of his inspirations. He notes that he’d like to take more art classes after the 2014 season to “become a better painter and refine the raw talent I do have.”
The 30-year-old, who lives in Las Vegas in the offseason, says he doesn’t talk about his off-the-field passion all that much in the locker room or with other players around the league, although that might change after his first exhibit. The Falcons are the featured team on the upcoming season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, leaving a good possibility that Jackson’s artwork ends up getting more attention than just attendees of his show.
With over 10,000 rushing yards on his career odometer, Jackson is coming off his first season since his rookie year where he didn’t rush for over 1000 yards. There’s no specific timetable for his remaining NFL future, but Jackson has clearly found a passion for travel and art that will sustain his interest whenever his playing career is over.
“I will pursue it full-time. It won’t be the only thing I do, but it will be something that I step up my involvement of, as well as the numbers of cameras I have in my collection,” Jackson said. “I’ll continue to thrive in this area as well as painting and sketching. Artistic expression will be something I lean on whenever I decide to hang up my cleats.”
He’s started to share his dual interests in sports and art with his two sons, ages eight and five, who have joined him on trips to London, Hawaii and Jamaica in recent years. While they’re now old enough to be aware of their dad’s feats on Sundays, they now have the opportunity to see his creative output hung on the same walls that have hosted work by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Damien Hirst.
“Once you allow yourself to become vulnerable and people see that, they want to be more receptive to you because they know you’re putting your all into it,” Jackson said of his upcoming exhibit. “That’s all I want from this is for me to be taken seriously as an artist. My passion doesn’t just lie on the football field, but in other areas of the world that make me relatable to other people.” By Chris Strauss, USA TODAY