Remember the anticipation of dropping off a disposable camera at Walgreens? Not knowing what photos you took, if your thumb blocked the lens, or if you remembered to turn on the flash. There was always a surprise photo or two to be found somewhere in the envelope of prints. That experience feels foreign now, with advanced iPhones cameras as the typical medium for photography. There are so many editing apps and tinted filters, that nearly every photo posted on social media or anywhere on the internet has been tweaked and toyed with, and certainly required dozens of attempts to stage the scene just right.
The disposable camera is the antithesis of today’s obsession with perfecting every image before it’s published. There’s no editing process, and aside from squinting your eyes and staring through the narrow rectangular lens, there’s no way to be sure what you’ve actually captured in the frame. There’s no instant gratification. You have to wait to take all 27 photos in the roll, and then wait some more for the drug store to process your film. The images are raw and real. The hazy tint could be its own Instagram filter, labeled nostalgia.
With this idealistic vision in mind, Sports Illustrated gave a FujiFilm disposable camera to six players on six different NFL teams with the goal of capturing the realness of training camp and preseason. The players delivered, but not without a thumb over the lens, or some dark shots desperately in need of flash. These are their photos: an unfiltered view of the NFL preseason grind.
Oakland Raiders running back Doug Martin was placed on injured reserve shortly after completing this project. Martin, in his second year in Oakland and eighth overall in the NFL, took these photos over the course of a week at Raiders training camp held in Napa, Calif., at the Napa Valley Marriott. His future in Oakland is uncertain, as he could be released with an injury settlement in the near future. Martin, a two-time Pro Bowler, established himself in Tampa Bay where he spent his first six seasons, but he’s an Oakland native. He was the Raiders lead rusher last year, but the team seemed ready to move on from him when Oakland drafted a running back in the first round, Josh Jacobs.
Martin’s photography tactics might explain why many of his photo subjects look surprised. “When I took pictures, everybody was pretty confused as to why I was using a disposable camera,” he laughs. “I didn't even explain it. I just took the picture and I left.”
Not pictured: Hard Knocks cameras.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in locker room.
D.M.: “Derek went to Fresno State, and I went to Boise State, and we always go back and forth, because they played each other in the conference championship last year. They won the championship last year, so I am betting on my boys to bring it home this year.”
Raiders rookie tight end Foster Moreau (L) and long snapper Trent Sieg.
Doug Martin: “We had a few chess boards out, and when we have some down time, a lot of guys will play chess. I’m definitely a chess guy. My dad played chess, so I learned the game from him growing up. I’m pretty nice on it. Everybody plays with a certain person, their closest teammate or friend on the team, I play with [running back] Jalen Richard mostly. So, there’s no Raiders chess champion or anything like that.”
Running back Jalen Richard in the foreground. Left to right: running backs coach Kirby Wilson, running back James Butler, fullback Keith Smith, Bill Walsh Diversity Fellowship coach Michael Spurlock.
D.M.: “Our position room was in a hotel room on the first floor, we take out the bed and put the projector in there, and that's where we had our meetings. We’ve got good chemistry in the running back room. Everybody does a good job of keeping each other accountable in the room and we like to have a good time, but also on a serious note, we do care about winning. We have two new rookies, Josh Jacobs and Alec Ingold.
The whiteboard in the background says:
GOOD RB ROOM= GOOD TEAM
ATTENTION TO DETAILS!
ROOKIES GHETTO PATROL.
D.M.: “That's when the rookies have to clean up the room, if there is any mess on the floor. We have the rookies go get us some snacks, like Cheetos, Pringles, candy. So if there are snacks on the ground, that's their rookie duty. We don't purposely leave a mess for them. We've treated the rookies pretty nicely this year, they've had an easy time this camp.”
Rookie safety Johnathan Abram in a cowboy outfit.
D.M.: “That was a pregame outfit. I didn’t ask him about it, I just saw it and I took a picture of it, I said, I can't pass this moment up. I liked it. He's bold and stylish, and that's fashion.”
A training staff member stretches a Raiders player.
D.M.: “You gotta take care of your body, it’s pretty grueling. The most challenging part is getting your body ready for the next day and getting your mind refreshed so you'll be able to go the next day. Just being mentally there, because it is very easy to get lost in the days and the grind.”
Justin Reid, a second-year safety for the Texans and the younger brother of Panthers safety Eric Reid, led the team as a rookie last season with three interceptions, including one against Washington QB Alex Smith, that he returned 101 yards for a touchdown. The Texans lost veteran safeties Tyrann Mathieu, Andre Hal, and Kareem Jackson this offseason, so Reid enters this year as the starting free safety. Reid took his turn as the Texans photographer on Thursday, Aug. 1, on a predictably steamy day in Houston at Houston Methodist Training Center in the shadow of the Texans stadium. It was the team’s first practice open to fans, and Reid had some fun with them in his photos. You’ll notice Reid wears a combination of three arm bands, two on one arm, one on the other. It’s his signature look. “Look good, feel good, play good,” he says. “It's definitely more of a look thing, but it actually does help when you dive on turf, it eats up some of the friction."
Justin Reid: "I try to stay out there as long as I can. It’s hot as hell in Houston and the fans are coming out here to support, they are standing in the sun, and I remember what it was like being a kid and being able to see some of your favorite players. On this day I was out there for an hour and a half. I usually wait until they tell me, 'Hey, bro, you have 10 minutes before you have to get to meetings.'"
"Usually I get a new pair of cleats for every game week. I’ll save them after the game and around this time of year, I'll bring an old pair and sign them and give them away. They get torn up so fast anyway. On this day I brought a pair of cleats out from the locker room to give to some kids and then I felt bad because these other kids wanted them too so I just took off my cleats. I really didn’t want to give those away, but I ended up giving those away too."
Reid gets taped with assistant athletic trainer, Chris Barrett.
J.R.: "I do the same thing with the same guy every single day. I got Chris [Barrett], my main guy and Uriah [Myrie], my backup guy and I won't go to anybody else. Chris had me back in college at Stanford, and now we’re both down here in Houston. I just believe in the same guy doing it the same, because you know what to expect, you know what you’re getting. My main style [for my ankle] is called a speed tape, it gives protection but it's not a whole lot, so it allows you to still be mobile and move quickly."
Texans center/guard Greg Mancz gets taped up before training.
J.R.: "The offensive line, they are always a bunch of characters. Especially Greg. He’s like the juice man. Whenever we do our team warmups and breakdowns, he is the guy you see at the center of the circle with his face red getting everybody hyped up."