The third edition of #soccermakers is weeks late and hopefully not too short. Mike Janosz has long been the favorite US Soccer photographer of fcearth. We met him digitally in 2008 (via Facebook) and have stayed in touch as his photography career- which encompasses not only soccer as a photographer and editor for International Sports Images (ISI) but also surfing and more- has progress. Read on to hear how he's evolved (and share your #soccermaker stories here.) And you can check him out on the web here at Michael Janosz Photography and at JanoszPhotos.net.
Where were you in 2008 with your soccer photography?
At that time I was fully involved with International Sports Images (ISIphotos.com) covering every LA Galaxy & Chivas USA home match; and high school soccer was huge for me at that time and has expanded even more today. US Soccer had recently instituted its Mens Development Academy Program as well, which my boss asked if I would be interested in covering which of course I was so excited about. Four times a year the Academy would be and be assessed by all the US Soccer people and we were there to document it.
What is the backstory for your work on the local soccer scene?
It started with MaxPreps, a high school sports website, high school stuff but was just a hobby. But I just loved soccer!
And how about for the US Soccer scene?
At that time I hadn’t really shot much US Soccer stuff, as I was the low guy on the totem pole at ISI. Many of the guys (and gals), for whatever reason, weren’t available to shoot so the Managing Editor asked if I was up for doing some traveling covering the Development Academy events and that’s when everything opened up for me and my soccer photography really took off and it jumped to a new level. I began working closely with some of the best soccer shooters in the world working for ISI. They taught me everything about lighting, portrait & headshot photography. It was awesome! I think about about all the guys & ladies that have passed through our Mens & Womens National teams from the youth level all the way to the Senior squads. For me this has been mind blowing because I’m a huge fan first of all! I could go on & on and on; I feel so blessed.
What's your soccer background and how did photography become a full-time opportunity?
I never ever dreamed of doing photography full time as a job. My photography began when a friend asked me to take pictures of he and his friends surfing back in 1976. On the way to the beach that day I asked to see the camera I was going to use as I didn’t have one then. He said “Camera? there’s no camera; you’re going to learn to surf!” That day my life changed forever.I had started playing soccer in 1969 when our little town of La Mirada, California began forming an AYSO league. There were about 15 or 20 of us, of all different ages. I was a nerd. My mom suggested to maybe give soccer a try. I was hooked. The Chilean family that presented me the game were my heroes. I finally found something I could connect with; I thought I was great. But in reality I wasn’t that good at all. I tried out for a few club teams but back then my mom didn’t want to drive me as the clubs were about 25 miles away.
During this time I was the water boy for the local college soccer team, Biola University. One day walking across campus, I heard someone yell my name. I looked over and it was the Biola college mens team captain. He was a student teacher (Spanish) at the time. He told me he was the crosstown rival's soccer coach and asked if I could transfer to play for him. It was my senior year of high school and I thought that it wouldn’t be feasible and my parents probably wouldn’t let me anyways. Well, the next morning I was called into the principal's office and there was mycoach, my principal and a counselor telling me that CIF had made provisions for me to play soccer across town while continuing to attend La Mirada. My parents were totally for it. My mom would be pick me up at lunchtime then drop me off at the other school. Needless to say my senior year was so much fun. I met some great new guys from the other school and little did I know at the time those guys were into surfing as well. I made All League,...My coach then is the man behind the SoCal Seahorses
I wanted to play college ball so I tried out for UCSB but didn’t make it. But I did play a handful of games under Sigi Schmid when he was coach of the LA Aztecs Jrs. Surfing was my new found love and after I quit playing for him that was it, just surfing.
One thing about surfing & soccer though, everywhere in the world I’ve been to while surfing & photographing surfing, I’ve lived in some of the smallest fishing villages with no running water or electricity or light bulbs, the one thing we had in common was football/soccer. Soccer/football is truly the world’s international language. I may have not understood a word of their language but we all spoke football.
After all my travels I ended up working in my families plastic products (audio & video manufacturing) business for over 25 years. (After the family business failed) I didn’t know what I was going to do but it’s been over 15 years now. I found part time work here and there doing odd jobs. In the last 8 to 10 years (photography) has turned into a true career profession. Everything I owe to ISI and John Todd and my wonderful wife who has supported & backed me throughout this time.
What has been the biggest eye opener for you as you've gotten deeper into your soccer coverage?
Traveling with the Seniors Men’s squad this last Hex round was an eye opener, getting to go Central America on the team's private plane was way cool. Another might be is the staggering difference of play from the Academy & Club level to the Mens first teams is crazy. Another eyeopener: many of the boys & girls and coaches as well that I’ve shot over the last 10-15 years are now getting married, having babies and starting families. So I’ve turned into a maternity and wedding photographer.
How are things going for you right now in your soccer work and what are your plans looking forward?
Right now is a tough time to be solely a sports photographer. I think because I have a few notches it’s really helping me succeed. Another thing I’m very proud of is John (Todd) has made me Photo Editor at ISI. I’ve been able to see all our photographers’ shoots that I get to edit, and all the incoming images from all over the world from our sister & partner companies such as Back Page Images Of UK & Europe and MexSport from Mexico & Central & South Americas.
Last year the (now) OC Blues FC from the USL Pro asked me to be their team photographer again, (and I'm) covering the MLS with the Galaxy and Chivas USA teams so that will keep me busy (since I am) continuing editing & shooting for ISI as well as expanding my team & individual high school photography business.
Mike is an inspiration to us. Check out his work in any forum that you can. Meanwhile we'll look to get an update from him soon.