Before Terrence Brooks ever stepped foot on the Gillette Stadium field in a Patriots uniform, he spent a night getting in a different kind of rep on the sidelines.
Rather than running drills or sprinting down field, Brooks stands on the sideline, camera in hand, as the New England Revolution host Atlanta United FC on April 13. It is about a month since he signed a two-year deal with the Patriots, and it would be more than four months before he made his regular-season debut, introducing Patriots Nation to Terrence Brooks the Football Player.
On this day, he is Terrence Brooks the Photographer.
After his first son, Carter, was born, Brooks decided to pick up a camera to document the little moments of his childhood. From then on, he said, he’s carried a camera with him everywhere, enjoying every part of the process from finding the shot to editing on his computer to sharing his work with others.
But on the sideline of a professional soccer match, Brooks is learning, shadowing Patriots team photographer David Silverman. Though not a stranger to the world of sports, it is new for him to shoot, and that night at the Revs game, he feels welcomed into the world of sports photography, as well as the greater Boston area.
“They treated me just like I was family. They showed me the way,” Brooks said. “As soon as I came in, me and David, it was so cool being out on the field in a new environment knowing that I’m potentially going to be playing on that field one day and just getting to shoot at the soccer game and getting out of my element of just shooting street photography and urban scenes.”
Though he is out of his element, he knows what to look for. As a professional athlete with a photographer’s eye, Brooks constantly sees moments worthy of capturing. Carrying his Sony Alpha downfield clearly isn’t an option, but his vantage point as an athlete is helpful.
“It’s different. I feel like it gives me more of an advantage too because I know,” Brooks said. “Being on the field you get some good scenes out there. Sometimes I’m actually like, ‘Man, this would be actually a pretty cool picture out here.’ If I’m on the sideline, I’m just seeing all the interactions from the coaches and players and stuff like that.”
One quick look at Brooks’s photography Instagram page, though, and one knows exactly where his heart lies when it comes to taking pictures.There is a distinct aesthetic to the photos Brooks shares. City shots flood the grid, and that kind of attitude, the slowed down moment in the chaos, is a running theme.
“I kind of like the moody feel,” he said. “I just love creating different moods within the pictures. It’s kind of cool to just take that out of just a raw photo.”
Brooks started sharing his pictures, at least on a separate Instagram page, in December of 2017. Anyone in a creative field knows that sharing your work is like sharing a piece of yourself. It can be a vulnerable and terrifying experience.
Brooks said he got over that, in part, by realizing you will never make everyone happy, so you might as well make yourself happy with your art. Oddly enough, a life as an athlete prepared him more for that than anything else.
“There’s always going to be people in the world who don’t like your work or like what you do, especially in sports. You do one thing, people are going to criticize you the most for doing that,” Brooks said. “I mean, people say LeBron James sucks at what he does, so you just kind of have to take that for what it is and just let people talk and just make sure you stay to yourself.”
For Brooks, photography offers an escape from the daily grind of life in the NFL. The days can be long, and it is easy, if not lazy, to see someone as one thing, as one part of their identity. When the world sees you as a football player, sometimes it can be hard to remember that you are more than one facet of yourself, Brooks said.
Photography has been an effective way to redefine himself outside of his career.
“You do get lost in it sometimes, thinking that you’re just a football player or this is all you need to focus on in that moment, but I feel like people forget that there are times where there’s no football on TV or you’re not doing any type of training,” Brooks said. “You kind of got to find yourself and see just really who you are, really the things that you like in this world. I feel like photography’s really helped me kind of mold myself and figure out what I want to do outside of ball.”
As much as this hobby has helped him find himself, by sharing his work with the world, he hopes people will learn to see beyond the helmet and the uniform.
“I feel like a lot of the stereotypes get put on athletes,” Brooks said. “They don’t really get a voice or a chance to say who they really are or their lives outside of football and for people just to see behind the scenes that we’re regular people too.”
This includes snapping away while at home. Though he didn’t pick up the camera until his first son was born, he’s made up for lost time.
Brooks and his wife, Caitie, welcomed twins at the beginning of the year, and from the time they packed up to go to the hospital to the hours after the twins were born, Brooks was documenting.
Life moves quickly, he said, and it has to be a deliberate decision to slow things down. Photography helps do that. Though, at times, it can be difficult to decide whether to pick up the camera and capture or just enjoy being in the moment, especially with his kids, Brooks said he is thankful to have a record of the big milestones, as well as the quiet moments, for his family.
“It’s definitely something that we cherish,” he said. “When they get older and start running around the house, telling us what to do, we can kind of remind them how young they were, how little they were, how much they needed us, so it’s pretty cool.”
As for his oldest son, the reason he found photography to begin with, he is taking after his father.
Carter has become a pro on a “child-proof” iPad, complete with learning games, but it didn’t take long for him to find the camera function.
“He’s always trying to mess with [my camera], and I just don’t let him play with it. He found the camera on his little iPad and ever since then he’s taking pictures of the babies and making little funny videos himself, which is really cool to look at,” Brooks said. “He’s just an awesome kid. It’s cool that he’s kind of picked up on something that I’m interested in and I can kind of share that with him.”