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Sports A league of her own: Behind the lens with the CFL’s official photographer, Johany Jutras

Nov. 25, 2018: Johany Jutras, official photographer of the Canadian Football League, takes pictures from the sideline during the Grey Cup game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Ottawa Redblacks at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.'It’s one thing to get there and another to stay there,' she says. 'Everyone wants your job. Everyone is good. I try to find a way to tell stories that haven’t been told. Otherwise you become replaceable.'

Phil Laplante Jr.

Sports photographer Johany Jutras is on a much-needed break. This is the off-season for the 31-year-old official photographer of the CFL, who recently self-published her second photo book Together, depicting the Toronto Argonauts’ 2017 journey to Grey Cup victory.

Raised on a family farm near Drummondville, Que., Jutras began taking pictures when she had to watch her three brothers play football. “My mom said, ‘come and cheer for them.’ I had a camera, and I thought it would be less boring.”

The brothers played all through high school, college and university with Jutras on the sidelines, shooting two or three games a weekend. The better the brothers became at football, the better she became at photography.

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Her brothers never made it to the CFL.

“I’m the only one who made it to the pros and I’ve never worn a helmet in my life.”

Nov. 26, 2018: Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson hoists the Grey Cup after Calgary beat Ottawa 27-16. For Jutras, lining up shots like these isn't just a matter of good timing and luck: It takes hours of preparation, drawing on years of practice. Jutras is blunt about how she did not go on to postsecondary education after high school: Her camera was her education.

JOHANY JUTRAS

One thing I think people will be surprised to find out about my job is the amount of hours of work behind the pictures they see. I’m at the game for eight hours shooting and editing. They think you just press the shutter and it appears to be perfect. It took me 10 years.

July 13, 2017: Argonauts Shawn Lemon and Victor Butler are shown in the locker room during a game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. Three years earlier, Jutras had left the family farm, packed up her camera and her dreams and set out for Montreal to start a new life. By the spring of 2016, Jutras had accepted job offers from the CFL and Argonauts. But as the season went on, she recalls the Argos head coach challenging her to see the team differently, in terms of teamwork instead of individual stars.

Johany Jutras

About three weeks into the season Toronto Argonauts head coach Marc Trestman told me my work had to be better. I remember crying on my way home, thinking this guy thinks I’m not good. He said he was the coach of a team and didn’t want to see pictures of single guys all the time. It’s not what we are here for. He never felt one player won the game. My work became better after that. I started to watch the game differently and to tell the story he was trying to tell the players. Do it together.

Nov. 4, 2017: Argos players Ricky Ray, Cody Fajardo, James Wilder Jr., McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Declan Cross of the Toronto Argonauts get ready before the game against the BC Lions at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. Gaining access to the locker rooms was a challenge for Jutras at first.

Johany Jutras

The challenge in the beginning of being a woman sports photographer was to earn the trust and respect of the teams. Some coaches think you are a distraction for the guys. At first I wasn’t allowed to go in the locker rooms. I needed to prove that I was here to do my job. I took me a year. I’m there and nobody really cares because they are used to seeing me.

Nov. 26, 2017: Argonauts McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Terrance Plummer embrace before the 105th Grey Cup at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, where they faced off against the Calgary Stampeders.

Johany Jutras

Argonaut Dylan Wynn kneels before the Grey Cup match.

Johany Jutras

I feel like I’m more than the photographer. I’m part of the team.

Qudarius Ford celebrates in the Argos locker room after Toronto beat Calgary 27-24. The Stampeders would get their turn at the Grey Cup a year later, when they defeated the Redblacks.

Johany Jutras

After the 2017 festivities are over, Argos equipment manager Danny Webb has a drink in the locker room. About a year after this photo was taken, Jutras would self-publish her second football book, Together, depicting the Argonauts' Grey Cup-winning season.

Johany Jutras

I want to do more books. I want to get better. I want people to trust me and let me in to tell their story.

Dec. 17, 2018: Jutras poses for a photo at her Montreal home, with her victory shot of the Stampeders head coach displayed on her laptop. What is Jutras's favourite photo of all time? 'My next one,' she says.

Dario Ayala/The Globe and Mail

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