Massachusetts-born photographer Avi Gerver began his work at the age of 15. Upon receiving his BFA at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for Photography and Imaging, Gerver became a photographer in New York City. Documenting over 200 events annually as a photographer for Madison Square Garden, Gerver has the opportunity to work with dozens of different clients. Some of his clients include the New York Rangers, New York Knicks, Radio City Music Hall, The New York Times, Tufts University, and Fuse Network. To view the images of Gerver’s photography, click here.
Q: Was photography a hobby in the beginning or did you know this was what you wanted to do as your career?
I always had an interest in photography, but I fell in love with it while taking an introductory photo class in 10th grade. I took full advantage of the available after-school hours in the darkroom, and really, I just couldn’t get enough of it. When I was researching potential colleges in 11th grade, I had the revelation that I could actually major in photography. I think that’s when I realized I would actually go full steam ahead with a photography career.
Q: How did you begin working for Madison Square Garden?
I took an internship with the Madison Square Garden Photo Services department in the summer of 2003. There were no actual shooting responsibilities, but I showed them my portfolio so they knew I was capable. In November of that year, I was surprised to receive a call from them asking me to shoot a community reading event involving a couple of Knicks players. That was my first paid shoot for the Garden, and they continued to hire me for occasional low-profile events. Gradually they worked in some bigger shoots like Rangers and Knicks games, concerts, and other shows. I now shoot over 200 events per year for Madison Square Garden and its properties, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre.
Q: It must be thrilling to have the opportunity to capture one-in-a-lifetime moments for the world to see, such as all of the sporting events. Do you ever find yourself getting lost into the moment?
At my very first Knicks game, I was standing on the court with my camera while players were stretching pre-game. As I took a step backward, a hand grabbed my shoulder. I turned around and it was a Knicks staff member who had graciously stopped me from accidentally stepping on a player’s head. Oops!
Q: Do you have just one special event that you wish you could relive?
In 2009, I shot a benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring some of the biggest names in music. The finale was a set with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. As someone who’s too young to have ever experienced the Beatles as a chart-topping four-member rock band, hearing the two remaining Beatles live was an out of body experience that I’ll always treasure.
Q: You have also worked with films such as the Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Super Size Me’. How is that different from photographing events?
When photographing a film or TV show, the still images are always secondary, so it’s important for me to be a fly on the wall and stay out of the way as much as possible. That often means only taking shots in between takes or using a sound-muffling case around the camera, and of course, no flash. For Super Size Me, I was fortunate that Morgan Spurlock wanted the photography to play a big part in the creation of the film, so I was able to really get in there to grab the shots I wanted. And as a documentary, it was certainly encouraged more than it would have been on the set of a scripted film.
Q: Do you have any advice for those who are seeking the same career path into photography?
If you’re a student: internships, internships, internships. Take advantage of the fact that it’s perfectly acceptable at this point in your life to work for free in exchange for the opportunity to prove yourself to people who have the power to hire you. If you’re not a student, work on building your portfolio at local sports and music venues. While an NBA arena may not allow you to enter with a big camera, a high school gym certainly will. Want professional-looking music photos? Head to a local jazz club where you can position yourself close to the musicians.
Q: What upcoming events will you be involved with?
With Madison Square Garden temporarily closed for renovation, I anticipate a slower summer. But that’s fine with me, because it means I get to spend quality time with my 4-month old son, Judah, a model who can’t say no! And maybe I’ll give him a photography lesson or two