CHATHAM, NJ - Everyone has heard the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Chatham High student Luke Malanga has added his own addendum, "...filled with joy, laughter and tears."
Malanga was hired by team mom, Jenny Moskowitz, to photograph every game of the 2015 Chatham football season for the season-ending slide show at the team banquet. What started out as a job for the 17-year-old Malanga turned into an emotional roller-coaster ride that he took with his senior classmates.
"At first I said I was a little hesitant to commit to taking pictures at all their games, but as the season progressed, I wanted to be at every game," Malanga said. "I wanted to be there, standing on the sidelines, shooting as the guys put it all out on the field. I feel like I became almost part of the team through my photos.
"I stood off on my own, but I was basically in the huddle by the end of the year. I found myself getting really caught up in it, especially in the final when things weren't going too well, I found myself reacting to their bad plays and their good plays, even though I'm supposed to be shooting the action. It was hard not to react when I had followed their entire season."
Malanga has developed a unique talent for what he calls "photo essays" and what he produced for the football banquet was a slide show/video that received rave reviews from the team and parents.
"I knew he would kill it because he's so talented," Jenny Moskowitz said. "He really connects with the story and how to tell it in an emotional way, between the music and the pictures. He went above and beyond a slide show with still pictures. There were cheers, laughing, crying in the audience. There is one upbeat portion of the video that had me tapping my toes and clapping my hands. He just did a great job.
"It was an emotional night. I had no idea this high school senior was going to capture the season the way he did."
In the 15-minute youtube video (see below), Malanga used still shots, video action with voiceover commentary, audio from the players, and background music that set the mood. During one portion, VV Brown's "Shark in the Water" provided the backdrop as the Cougars built momentum in their 9-3 season that brought them to the state final.
"Even when I was editing it, I was getting a little emotional myself," Malanga said. "Brian Brady came up to me the next day in school and asked me, 'Were you trying to make us cry or something?' He said he was crying at the beginning. Some of the other parents said there wasn't a dry eye in the house."
It was a special season for this group of seniors, who began their high school football careers with back-to-back 0-10 seasons. The turnaround came with a 3-7 campaign last year, which included the end to a 23-game losing streak. And then the remarkable final season that no one could have predicted.
As the season progressed, Malanga decided to include the entire story of the senior class, taking them from losing seasons to winning and also interspersing photos and video from when the players were in middle school.
"I kind of had this idea that this year they're starting to play like they were in middle school, when they made it to the Super Bowl," Malanga said. "I felt like this was the same atmosphere, they were connected and they were all playing for each other. So I connected clips and photos from that time to tell that now Chatham football is back to where it's fun again and people want to come to the games."
Malanga's interest in photography began when he got his first camera at the age of eight. But his passion for sports photography increased when he got to high school and he has decided it will be part of his future. He envisions sports marketing on his resume after college.
"I want to capture the atmosphere that tells a story," Malanga said. "That's what I want to do in the future. Not just go to events and take pictures; I want to actually tell a story of a team or a person. Obviously, I like the technical aspects, and the ability to capture a moment and share it with other people."
Malanga began his storytelling when he featured the ice hockey team at the beginning of last season (see video below). It was different than the football team because he was anticipating a successful season by the Cougar skaters.
Here is the slide show/video Luke Malanga put together to tell the story of the 2015 Chatham High football team
This video by Malanga was made in anticipation of the 2014-'15 Chatham ice hockey season
To check out other pictorials by Luke Malanga, click here
Malanga explains his passion for telling a story through his photography. Click here.