“Hey, Miles Kelly, can I get ‘yer autograph?”

The New York State Fair has a specific policy regarding their photographs.  If there is anybody in the picture that can be recognized – i.e., if there’s a face in the picture and he doesn’t look like a Dick Tracy villain – the photographer must acquire a signed release from that person before that photograph can be displayed at the Harriet May Mills Art Center.

Normally this hasn’t been an issue for me in the past.  Most of my pictures are devoid of people anyway, and usually if there is a human in the picture, it’s one of my model friends – like Lauren in Her Stolen Heart, or it’s in the purview of my work with a sports league, such as my 2009 ribbon-winner Action Under the Basket.

Her Stolen Heart
Her Stolen Heart. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 wide-angle lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Manchester Millrats v Rochester Razorsharks 2009 Playoffs Game 2
Action Under the Basket. Nikon D70 camera, Nikkor 80-200 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

But I’m not taking any chances.  Not this year.  No way, no how.  Heck, if I could figure out how an animal could sign a release, I’d do it.  Hello, Mr. Jumbuck?  Could you please put your hoofprint on this release form?

One of the pictures I want to enter at the New York State Fair is “The Three-Two Pitch.”  Or, as you might know it, THIS picture.

The Three-Two Pitch
The Three-Two Pitch. Nikon EM camera with modified slitscan, Nikkor 50-300 f/4.5 telephoto lens, Kodak Gold 400 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I definitely want to enter this picture in competition, especially in the color non-traditional category.  But here’s the issue.  The photo features pitcher Miles Kelly of the Capital City Diamond Kings semipro baseball team.  You can clearly see his face in the picture.  I can’t digitally blur out his face, it will ruin the picture.  And since I don’t work for the Twilight League, I can’t really use his picture as part of the New York State Fair art competition WITHOUT getting him to sign a release.

I checked the Twilight League schedule.  Capital City is playing the Albany Athletics in a doubleheader Sunday at Bleecker Stadium.  Certainly I can get in touch with Miles Kelly and have him sign the release.  Heck, I’ll even give him a print of the picture if it will help seal the deal.

I’ll tell you something.  I’ve learned a long, long, long time ago that getting autographs from sports athletes can be a tricky endeavor.  Sometimes athletes are willing to sign anything and everything; sometimes they’d rather stick that ballpoint where the sun does not shine.

That being said… I gotta give it a try.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  He could say no, which would disqualify my picture in that competition, and I’d have to send something else in its stead.  If that’s the worst thing that can happen… I can handle it.

Sunday afternoon.  It’s a blistering hot day at Bleecker Stadium.  The Diamond Kings are arriving, one by one, at Edsall Walker Field.  I look around for any player wearing #19.  No sign.  Maybe Kelly’s not scheduled to pitch today.  Or maybe he got traded to the Albany Athletics or something.

I ask one of the Diamond Kings if he knows if Miles Kelly is at the stadium.

“He’s running around the track, warming up.  You want me to get him?”

“If it’s not too much trouble, yes please.”

A few minutes later, a burly, blonde-haired man walked up to the dugout gate.  “I understand you’re looking for me.”

“Are you Miles Kelly?”

He nodded.

I showed him some 4×6 prints of the slitscan pictures.  “I took these pictures of you last week.”  Then I showed him the big one, the one I want to enter in competition.

“You took that one?”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “Here’s what I need.  If you sign this release so that I can enter it in competition, these prints are yours to keep.  You can put them on Facebook or whatever you want.”

He looked at the release form.  “NYS Fair,” he said, reading the release requirements.  “Is that the one in Syracuse?”

“Yes it is.”

He took my pen, quickly signed and dated the form, and that was that.  I handed him the pictures for his own use, shook his hand, thanked him, and wished him a good game.

So now I can enter The Three-Two Pitch without hesitation.

Good.  One less obstacle to vault for competition season.

Much thanks, Miles Kelly.