While the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic on July 7 offered 50 Division I athletes from historically Black colleges and universities an opportunity to potentially improve their stock for the MLB draft, it also gave several HBCU creatives the chance to showcase and amplify their work.
The MLB, in partnership with Getty Images, invited two members from Getty’s HBCU photographer mentorship program, Qwest Courtney of Prairie View A&M University and Jewel Champbell of Morgan State University, and an additional HBCU student photographer, Jorden Dixon of Clark Atlanta University, to capture the inaugural game and its accompanying events.
Here is a curated selection of the student photographers’ favorite images from the HBCU Swingman Classic.
Jewel Champbell, Morgan State University
Champbell, a graduating senior at Morgan State, got her start in photography during 2020, when she purchased a point-and-shoot camera and fell in love with capturing campus life. She describes her photography as “documentary style.”
“I’m inspired by my community every day, and whenever I go out, I bring my camera with me and just document what I see. I feel as though there’s always a story within the story, so just being able to amplify the stories that are within my community is just such a beautiful thing,” Champbell said.
“The players, they really appreciate the support, and I think it was beautiful just documenting this moment. I don’t know if that’s his mom, but there’s a woman there taking a photo of him, and then there’s just so many people wanting to interact with the players and wanting to savor that memory … of just seeing someone that they can become,” Champbell said. “I think that’s what I really loved about just these interactions that I witnessed.”
“I think this shot is so important because it is the first annual HBCU [Swingman] classic, and I think it’s just beautiful to actually just document it. I loved that now there’s so many different initiatives to amplify HBCU athletes and provide access for them, but just this detail shot allowed me to kind of savor that moment and kind of freeze the moment in time,” Champbell said. “I just wanted to freeze that moment in time for the player just to document history. History was definitely made this day.”
“All these players, they may know each other just from looking at each other’s stats or they probably played each other because most of them go to Southern schools,” Champbell said. “But just documenting that unity of them working together to achieve a goal, I think that was so beautiful seeing how they interact with one another. You don’t really get to see that in the media as much, so I think this was just a beautiful portrayal of just HBCU unity within sports.”
Qwest Courtney, Prairie View A&M University
Courtney grew up with a camera in his hand, initially using a flip phone to capture neighborhood activities and family cookouts. However, his passion for storytelling through the lens of a camera has evolved over the years.
“I took a photography class [in high school] and I started to learn the mechanics of a camera and how to compose a photo. I was like, ‘I really like this, this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,’ ” Courtney said.
“When the game was over, they announced the MVP. The first thing I wanted to do was put him on that pedestal, which meant shoot from a lower angle,” Courtney said. “I feel like me being on one knee and taking that photo and composing it the way that I did, it helps tell the story of him being the MVP. He’s the first of many Swingman Classic MVPs. The smile, the backlight behind him in the stadium — it kind of just gives the whole photo depth and helps the viewer of this photo realize that this is a special moment for him.”
“When signing baseballs and merchandise at the collegiate level for an HBCU athlete, I know it doesn’t happen as often. Fans asked for an autograph because the fans see the potential. They know that he could be the next Ken Griffey Jr.,” Courtney said. “So I wanted to capture him taking in that moment and offering signatures and attention to the fans of Swingman. He was extremely poised and respectful to the fans. I really liked this photo. I feel like even his wristbands, his shades, his chain, his cap under his cap, it shows his personality subtly.”
“With portrait photography I felt like we can get kind of caught up in what’s happening at practice or at the game. We need to sometimes take a breath and step back and just capture the environment and what’s happening around. It helps tell the story of the Swingman Classic,” Courtney said.
Jorden Dixon, Clark Atlanta University
Dixon is a student-athlete himself; he is a left-handed pitcher on Clark Atlanta’s baseball team. Dixon’s experience as both an athlete and photographer led him to a summer internship with MLB, where he was invited to shoot the HBCU Swingman Classic.
“I find it helps [being a student-athlete] in many ways because I have a pretty solid knowledge of the game, so I’m able to predict things that may happen in different moments,” Dixon said. “And it also helps with meshing with the players and knowing what type of personalities that they have.”
“When I look at this picture, I see baseball and more specifically I see HBCU baseball. It’s very rare that players of our caliber and the HBCU realm of baseball get opportunities like this,” Dixon said. “So to me this picture looks big league. It looks like a player from an HBCU hitting in a professional stadium.
“I wanted to make sure that when I was photographing these players that I was highlighting them in the best ways that I possibly could. I wanted the guys to feel like they were in the big leagues and feel like they have made it, so I wanted to try to get a front page-type of photo for each guy.”
“It took me a quick second to notice that some of the guys were wearing Ken Griffey Jr.’s sneakers, so I really wanted to highlight the sneaker in this photo, and I wanted to get a pretty detailed shot of the background and just the rustic type of look in the classic feel of HBCU baseball,” Dixon said. “Luckily for us, all the guys seemed like they were having fun … like they were enjoying the portrait experience. So I wanted to just make sure that I gave him comfortable poses. You know, I allowed him to move in ways that he was most comfortable with to be able to get this shot.”
“Whether you’re a baseball player or not or, you know, just as a sports photographer in general, you have to learn the game so you can learn what to shoot,” Dixon said. “In this situation, I was focusing on the lead runner. Him getting to third base, he’s closer in scoring position, so I want to try to get as much emotion and as much reaction as possible from the players. … I wanted to get the interaction between the coach and the player.”
The three HBCU student photographers also took pictures of the MLB All-Star Futures Game on July 8 and other activities accompanying the HBCU Swingman Classic. View more of their work on gettyimages.com and @MLBDevelops on Instagram.
“The Swingman Classic being the first of its kind, being an inaugural event, I felt like I was making history. I’m a part of history. This is gonna be a game that I see getting better and better and more exciting and attracting more attention as the years go on,” Courtney said. “It felt special being a part of this change in the industry. In 2023, people are wanting to see more Black talent, wanting to see more HBCU talent, and it’s just giving us a platform to just have ourselves seen and have our artwork appreciated by the masses.”