Photographer Adair Rutledge's Timely Photo Essay Tackles The Culture of Football

 Nashville Cardinals
This week's all abuzz with football. It's hard to miss the hype surrounding Super Bowl LI. Less well-known, however, is probably the USA Football decision, to drastically alter youth football in light of mounting medical evidence and increasing public opinion that the game is not safe for children. 

At Sally Reps, we feel privileged to see how photographers use their art to address difficult issues. When we saw this evocative photo essay from gifted, editorial photographer, Adair Rutledge, we took a step back. Over the past three years, Adair has been busy documenting the Pee-Wee Football community in Nashville, Tennessee. Adair's photo essay chronicles a deeply-rooted culture of football and the young children who play. We think her work is best summarized by her own words:

Nashville Cardinals

Each evening on my drive home in Nashville, I would pass a field dotted with tiny figures in plastic armor, smashing into each other over, and over again. It was a Pee-Wee Football practice; the players five and six years old. As a Southerner, I understand that football is a rite of passage taken very seriously and yet, I could not get passed the shock of kindergartners wearing oversized helmets and shoulder pads. I was compelled to take a closer look.

This ongoing photo essay, Nashville Cardinals, looks at one of the thousands of Pee Wee Football teams across America. I explore the tension between sweet, post-toddler innocence and checks for concussions, between what it means to be a child and expectations for ‘what it means to be a Man.’ I try to understand how the dynamics between parents, coaches, and kids work to groom the next generation of professional athletes; how repeated physical contact impacts kids early in their lives; and how the industry of football contributes to defining social norms of violence, race, class, and gender for American Youth.


Popular Posts