Scholar-athletes are hitting the courts, fields, and track ready to bring home Cougar wins for George School. Three student leaders—Max Forstein ’23, Ria Paladugu ’23, and Emmett Schmucker ’23—are at the ready to capture these moments.
Max, Ria, and Emmett formed the GS student media team to capture Cougar athletics and shine a light on athletes’ accomplishments. They are the core team behind the streamlined content for GS Athletics on Instagram and Twitter. Over the past couple of years, they have also successfully and steadily grown the team to about a dozen students. The trio reviews game schedules, coordinates staff coverage, captures promotional shots, and maps out content plans for each team. Each was drawn to photography, journalism, and film work before coming to George School, and have used their time and experience at GS to hone their respective crafts.
Max, an International Baccalaureate (IB) student has taken photography classes at GS all four years and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Curious George (George School’s student-led newspaper). He started pursuing sports photojournalism in middle school through digital photography, clubs, and the creation of his own blog. “I’ve never been a huge art person, but for some reason I was always drawn to photography, specifically sports photo journalism,” said Max.
“In seventh grade, I started taking photos for middle school teams because I thought they weren’t getting enough exposure. I would take photos of the games and write about them on my blog.” Now at George School, Max lifts up the school’s scholar-athletes, and applies techniques learned in advanced photography classes in real time.
Though she has never taken a formal photography class, Ria enjoys the experimentation the art form allows and is an IB student at GS. Her media work is also part of her Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) work for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). “My mom always had a camera lying around at home,” said Ria. “In middle school, I started to take photos in the backyard. My mom taught me how to frame the shot—focusing on taking the photo and capturing the moment. All of it is an artistic approach for me.” Ria trusts her eye when taking photos and enjoys capturing the moment she is living in.
Emmett’s real passion is filmmaking and cinematography—skills he refines in and out of class. His classmates have even affectionately given him the nickname “films.”
“I approach projects more as an artform than as a business,” Emmett shared. “I create to learn and experiment, and to grow within it.” Emmett enjoys the story mapping aspect of filming, and one can find him editing his projects during lunch, after school, and during his free time. While it’s a significant time commitment on top of his schoolwork, love for the art form is his motivation.
Max, Ria, and Emmett had initially done some work with school faculty and staff developing GS Athletics content, but formally reached out to the Athletics Department when they saw a need to share more coverage of games so athletes could have a stronger presence on the school’s social media. They began live-tweeting games and always had their cameras at the ready.
Interest in joining the student media team has grown immensely in the past few years. “We have to get people to call dibs on games, otherwise we have too many people at games,” said Ria. It’s a good problem to have. Students from across each grade have requested to join the team; there is now an application process, and participation now officially counts as a PE/co-op credit thanks to the work of its fearless leaders. The team is also working on covering away games. Max recently attended a winter track meet to take photos, and Emmett attended boys’ basketball tournaments in Massachusetts and DC with the team to film promotional content. “I do photo and video for the games,” Emmett shared. “Right now, I’m editing content from the tournaments to put together a montage mixtape of best clips featuring individual players.”
So, what does a typical week look like for the media team? Max, Ria, and Emmett create a schedule for the week and ensure balanced coverage for each sport. A typical week usually requires approximately a 10+ hour commitment, averaging a couple of hours each day. One of the leaders shows up to each game to make sure there is student coverage and confirms attendance for credit. This often requires multi-tasking, working on homework in the Fitness and Athletics Center so they can pivot to media assignments if needed.
Photos from each year are stored in a shared drive that is carefully categorized, organized, and accessible—building an archive of their favorite athletic moments and cementing their legacy.
“I always loved to play sports, and taking photos is another way to get involved,” commented Max. “It helps you feel like part of the team, but in a different way. The teams are really accepting of us and love the photos—they’re happy to see us at the games.”
Representing each sport fairly is a priority for the team. “One of the biggest challenges we had to work through last year was equality among covering all of the sports,” said Ria. “We had moments where the girls’ sports were not being covered enough, and that is something I was really pushing for,” Ria continued. “It happens everywhere, it happens in the real world, in all sports, and I would not let that happen here. It took us a while to sort through the planning, and we received messages from teams who were upset, but ultimately we worked through it and split our time to cover the games. It is important that we are valuing the accomplishments of all of the teams.”
George School has 240-acres of beautiful campus to photograph, but the GS student media team has a few favorites to share. Max’s favorite spot to photograph on campus is the wooden bench right outside of Red Square. He has taken pictures in the same spot since sixth grade and has enjoyed being able to share them with his father [Bradd Forstein ’93] who is also a George School alum. For sports photography he recommends the glimmering baseball diamonds on the weekend because the sport lends itself to intentional and timed shots. Ria enjoys taking photos in Main with her friends or capturing dreamy sunsets on South Lawn. Emmett shared that he enjoys taking aerial photos of campus with a drone. “Taking photos in the air, or underwater, allows you to capture different perspectives that you might never see,” said Emmett. Check out a drone video of campus that Emmett created earlier this year.
What’s next for the student media pioneers? The team plans to introduce its newer members to Athletics staff and set up a meeting as the team transitions at the end of this year. Max, Ria, and Emmett are proud of what they have created. “We’ve earned the respect of the community,” said Max. “They welcome us to the games and are excited to see us. I love what it’s done for me and my time at GS—the camera will never leave my side.”
Check out some of the original work of the GS student media team below:
Max: “This was one of the coolest moments I’ve captured because there is so much going on and yet it doesn’t feel cluttered. The focus on Paiyton [Penn ’22] breezing past her defending is nice, but with the rest of the team in the background plus the cheerleaders too makes the image multidimensional, which I love to capture with my camera.
Namu Makatiani ’22 swimming backstroke. Swimming is one of the hardest (if not the hardest) sports to take photos of, so when I took this photo during a meet, I knew immediately that it was good, and it was one of the most satisfying photos to see in post.
Emilio Pellegrini ’23 celebrates after scoring the winning goal in overtime vs Moorestown Friends. This was one of the closest soccer games I’ve ever seen and photographed, so it was awesome to see one of my close friends score the winning goal as overtime was winding down. I also sometimes have trouble capturing the moments right after greatness in sports, so to finally get it here was spectacular.”
Ria: “I think I generally like these because the focus is on one specific player in comparison to some other photos where it will be the team or a group. The one with the boys cheering on their basketball team feels very high spirited and I just remember loving how that game went.”
Emmett: (Top left) Jordan Holiday Classic basketball tournament in Bronx, NY; (Bottom left) varsity boys’ basketball promotional shot; (Right) varsity boys’ basketball playoffs