Photographer Rallies Support for Parapan Am Games

July 28, 2015


Hannah Aspden courtesy U.S. Paralympics/Jeremy Kohm


With less than two weeks to go before the start of the Parapan Am Games and the Pan Am Games now behind us, it’s time for Toronto to throw its support to the 1,600 athletes from 28 countries that will participate in sports such as swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair rugby.


When the U.S Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, commissioned local photographer Jeremy Kohm to shoot portraits of its 40 Parapan Am hopefuls earlier this year, he saw it as a perfect opportunity to go beyond the brief to drum up more interest in the sometimes-overlooked competition. Before meeting the athletes when they were in the city for qualifications back in March, Kohm approached editor Monica Remba of post-production studio Married With Giants to collaborate on an impromptu video.


“These athletes have really good stories,” says Kohm. “I pitched Monica a loose narrative — this is what I’d like to do, depending on time, location and what talent I can wrangle. She was pretty keen. The client was fully supportive and I had a lot of creative control.”


With the priority being the client brief, Kohm squeezed in filming whenever he could over the two days of the shoot. As he photographed the athletes, he set up a second camera to record those that might be a good fit for a video. “We had about five minutes per athlete. So when I found one that would work, I had to quickly get them to look down and look up, and go from serious to smiling, so I would have options.”


Colleen Young, courtesy U.S. Paralympics/Jeremy Kohm


Kohm filmed seven athletes, but eventually landed on swimmer Anna Johannes, a five-time Parapan Am gold medallist and Paralympic bronze medallist, to participate in the final clip. When she had a small pocket of downtime, Kohm followed her between the warm-up and competition pool. “We wanted it to be a pump-up, psych-up sports video...a little dark, a little dirty, a little aggressive.” The footage of Johannes was completed in about 20 minutes.


“We wanted to hook the viewer, lead them down that path, and let them know that [Parapan Am] sports can be just as exciting, if not more exciting, than the other sports you watch,” Kohm says. “The reason the spot paid off is that we’ve included a few misleading things. That scene where she puts her arms over her head — you think you’ve seen everything, then there’s that little twist.”


Throughout the process, Kohm says he was wowed with not only the athletes’ performances, but also their tales of perseverance. He points to swimmer and Paralympic gold medallist Brad Snyder, who lost his vision in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan, as another athlete whose story stuck with him. “These people are doing something really impressive. These kinds of pieces are what shift people’s mentality,” says Kohm.


The Parapan Am Games runs August 7 to 15 in Toronto. See the video and more portraits below.


USOC from Jeremy Kohm on Vimeo.


Video credits:

Director/DP/Writer: Jeremy Kohm

Editor: Monica Remba/Married to Giants

Sound: Chris Davies/Blockhead Sound Inc.

Colourist: Tricia Hagoriles/Alter Ego

Designer: Andrew Oliver

Client: U.S. Paralympics

Talent: Anna Johannes


Brad Snyder, courtesy U.S. Paralympics/Jeremy Kohm



Roy Perkins, courtesy U.S. Paralympics/Jeremy Kohm



Dalton Heredeen, courtesy U.S. Paralympics/Jeremy Kohm


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