A different side of sports

Photographer aims to showcase the balls

Photographer Gary Hodge of Naugatuck is working on a project to photograph 40 sports balls from popular and not-so-well-known sports for an art show later this year.  –PATRICK BURSEY

Photographer Gary Hodge of Naugatuck is working on a project to photograph 40 sports balls from popular and not-so-well-known sports for an art show later this year. –PATRICK BURSEY

NAUGATUCK — To photograph every sports ball in the world is a near impossible goal, but one Naugatuck photographer is determined to snap pictures of as many as possible.

Gary Hodge, 37, has photographed 32 of 40 chosen sports balls to be displayed in an art show to debut later this year.

The project, started in January, will feature sports balls Hodge collected and leased from private organizations, international federations and local Connecticut universities.

“If you can imagine the sport, then I shot it,” Hodge said.

Hodge’s collection features well know American sports like basketball and baseball, but also features sports balls from Gaelic Football to Sepak Takraw, kick volleyball played in South Asia.

Hodge’s goal is to capture a sense of nostalgia with each viewer.

“I want people to feel like kids again,” Hodge said. “The more balls I have, the more people I touch. The purpose is to tap into that good, comfortable feeling.”

Hodge claimed the project was inspired by a Google Image search.

Scanning though hundreds of sports photos, Hodge found most of the photos glorified the athlete and not the ball.

“A lot of people like that the athlete is out of the picture,” Hodge said. “It’s just the sport.”

For someone taking photos of sports balls, Hodge is not at all attracted to sports.

“I am the least-interested-in-sports person you will ever meet,” Hodge said. “I just want to be original.”

When he was starting to build his collection, Hodge contacted his father, a former Southern Connecticut State University football coach, and friends for gear.

“I needed aged, but still recognizable sports balls,” Hodge said. “I was raiding garages.”

His first photographed ball was a baseball he used to play with in Little League.

From his first photographed ball, Hodge contacted every Connecticut college and university.

SCSU, Hodge’s alma mater, was the first institution to respond to his request.

“I started reaching out to more equipment managers, and suddenly I started getting more emails back,” Hodge said.

One of Hodge’s most memorable collecting moments happened when he traded a brand new rugby ball for a used one from Cheshire High School’s rugby coach.

Hodge sensed the coach’s confusion during the exchange.

“I know he didn’t want to say anything but I could tell he wanted to,” Hodge said.

One of Hodge’s most fascinating pieces is a Jai-Alai ball and mitt from the Milford Jai-Alai Club.

Hodge considers the mitt, signed by one of the last teams to win a Jai-Alai championship in Connecticut, as a piece of Connecticut’s sports history.

Other unique balls in Hodge’s possession include a candlepin bowling ball, handball and hurling ball.

Since all of Hodge’s pieces are used, Hodge emphasizes the uniqueness of each ball by using different lighting angles.

This photograph of tchouckballs is among the pictures Gary Hodge of Naugatuck is planning to exhibit as part of an art show on various sports balls. Tchouckball is an international game developed by the late Dr. Hermann Brandt, who was a Swiss biologist. -GARY HODGE

This photograph of tchouckballs is among the pictures Gary Hodge of Naugatuck is planning to exhibit as part of an art show on various sports balls. Tchouckball is an international game developed by the late Dr. Hermann Brandt, who was a Swiss biologist. -GARY HODGE

“It gives more character to the leather,” Hodges said. “I look at things other people don’t stop to look at.”

According to Hodge, each photograph will be photographed in the same position and will be printed in the same size. This adds to Hodge’s message of equality and sameness in popular versus unknown sports.

According to Hodge, he has spent 15 to 20 hours a week for the past seven months studying and locating sports balls for his project.

Only when Hodge feels comfortable with his collection, is when he will prepare his show.

“I have already been finished three times,” Hodge said.

Lakewood Lanes in Waterbury has already contacted Hodge as a future venue to host his first show.

“People are really excited about it,” Hodge said. “This is much bigger than I ever dreamed.”

If the show is successful in Connecticut, Hodge plans to take the show nationwide.

Once he’s finished, Hodge plans to keep the entire collection.

“None of it is junk,” Hodge said.

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