Shooting Hoops: Photographer’s Love of Basketball Inspires His Collection of Courts
Webster Groves native Paul Nordmann comes from a long line of die-hard hoops fans. He and three of his siblings played high school and college basketball. His father and uncles played college ball as well, and one of those uncles made it all the way to the NBA. To say basketball was an integral part of his life growing up would be a gross understatement.
“We had a basketball hoop in our driveway, and every single day my siblings and I were out there playing,” he says. “Basketball was always around.”
Inspired by his mother, Lisa, Nordmann followed in her footsteps and became a professional photographer. About 10 years ago, he was looking for a personal photography project to take up his free time while he was on the road on assignment. That faithful driveway hoop from his childhood provided inspiration.
“My parents sold that house, and one of the first thing the family did when they moved in was tear down that hoop,” Nordmann says. “I was so mad that they would do that. That memory is gone because I don’t have a photograph of it.”
So Nordmann began collecting images of basketball hoops and courts around the country, dubbing the project “U.S. of Hoops.” “Whenever I saw a cool hoop, I’d just shoot it,” he says. “My goal was to find them and make them look pretty.”
Nordmann’s images aren’t just those of the ubiquitous gritty inner-city playground or the glitz of the professional arena that one might expect. “It would be really easy to get those shots everywhere I go, but I wanted to get a sense of place. The project is more about the places, how different this common thing is,” he says.
Nordmann’s photos range from a palm-tree-lined court in Hawaii to a ramshackle backboard hung on a utility pole in St. Louis. Nordmann says there’s no polemic or theme to the work, no political or social statement hidden in the images.
“I’ve thought about it, but to be honest, I don’t try to go too deep with it. I just really like basketball and basketball courts,” he says.
Though he’s has plenty of requests, Nordmann is uninterested in showing the work in public, and prints aren’t for sale. The only prints on public display are at the East + West store in the Central West End. Nordmann, whose six-month-old daughter has a congenital heart defect, agreed to sell them to the owner but donated the proceeds to The Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation and the Ollie Hinkle Heart Foundation.
For the time being, fans can enjoy Nordmann’s images online, though plans are in the works for a book of the photographs once he gets images from all 50 states; Nordmann says he only has about 15 more to go.
Images courtesy of Paul Nordmann.