INDIANAPOLIS – The passion is rooted in history.
Colts history and the Irsay family go hand-in-hand, and now Vice Chair/Owner Kalen Irsay is helping document one of the NFL's winningest franchises.
The documentation comes in the form of weekly photo galleries, showcasing what life is like for the Colts here in Indianapolis and also when it's time to take their act outside of Indianapolis.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Take one look around Jim Irsay's office or the memorabilia room at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and history is at every turn.
Maybe it's a stat sheet from a historic game, or a program following a storied win.
Trunks and trunks of Colts collectables are kept as keepsakes.
"It may seem a little excessive but when you look at it, it's amazing to be able to create rooms and share it with sponsors and fans and experiences with people," Kalen Irsay, the youngest Irsay daughter, says. "We are kind of in the business of making memories. This is just another one of those times that we are able to do that."
Irsay was introduced to the importance of this at a young age.
She and her sisters would enter their mother's dark room for film photography, where family photos would surround them.
What is seen now in weekly photo galleries at every Colts game started well before Irsay ever walked through NFL stadiums with camera in hand.
"In terms of artistic expression, I think it's something that I've always gravitated towards," she says.
"The cool thing about photos, there's such emotion in them and you are able to look at them and everything comes flooding back. To be able to do that for our family and fans is really neat."
TIME TO LEARN
Before Irsay's galleries came to fruition, her knowledge for the art of photography consumed three hours of her Wednesday nights as the 2014 season got underway.
From August-October, Irsay headed down to the Indianapolis Art Center each Wednesday night to take a Digital Photography class.
Under the tutelage of instructor Dan Helrigel and Colts team photographer Matt Bowen, this "hobby" was about to become much more than that.
It took some initial convincing, but Bowen eventually coaxed Irsay into documenting her game days.
"The idea came from me liking behind the scenes images of everything," Bowen said.
"As a photographer, I look at other photographer's stuff and I look at how they did it. For Kalen and her travels, going to every game, I figured it would be pretty cool to see how she gets there and where she stays and what she does on game day because no one really knows that. I thought it would be pretty fun and something that the fans would really get a kick out of."
For Irsay, an interest in graphic design sparked the intrigue in photography.
The idea of photographing a game day at first seemed a little unnatural for the humble Irsay.
The more she thought about it though, she realized she could provide fans scenes that they in all likelihood would never be able to see.
"Part of it is just more content and seeing more access to the players and how they are with each other whether that be during warmups or on the plane," Irsay says.
"We try to show that as much as we can to the fans and think of new ways to let them have a glimpse into our world and our family in terms of the team. I think it was just another way to have another look into this world of the Colts."
A candid look at Kalen Irsay's game day experience through her photography!
THE JOY OF GAME DAY
Capturing her experience each week began in early October for Irsay, starting with a Thursday night trip to Houston.
From a fan greeting her sisters and her when their plane landed in Houston (pictured above), to a joyous visiting locker room after the 33-28 win, fans got their first glimpse of what a Colts road trip is like.
The flight home (or the night after home games) is when Irsay typically begins her editing process, before some more edits in the morning following the game.
She then writes her cutlines and packages those with her files to send to Bowen for the galleries seen each week.
One of Irsay's favorite photos is the one pictured near the top of the page, with her dad overlooking the Colts road win in Cleveland.
Images like that, with strong depths of field, is something that Irsay enjoys trying to incorporate in her work.
As you would imagine, the favorite gallery of the year came in Denver.
"Obviously there's so much excitement during it, but I made sure to have the camera set so I could turn quickly and take a picture of my dad celebrating or our box celebrating," Irsay said of the road playoff victory.
"I got there probably the earliest I had been to an away game to take my time and kind of set up some of the shots. I think that one sticks out as my favorite and there was so much to write about with my photos. That's another thing that I had a lot of fun with and it adds a little more depth to the album with the cut lines I do. I really try to explain with the things that are happening in the moment."
The action shots that Irsay takes throughout the games are something that Bowen finds the most impressive.
"Shooting what she's shooting for the Colts is a whole different ball game," Bowen says. "She's shooting action. She's shooting NFL players on the field in tunnels. She's shooting low light in the owner's suite. She's shooting things that are way past your point and shoot camera, so she's learned a lot. She's gotten a lot better."
"Fans are getting a peek into how much and how passionate she and her family are about the Colts and about the game itself and how much knowledge she has of the game."
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
As the 2014 season started to unfold, Irsay let herself occasionally think about the history she was capturing in her first season of having a camera by her side.
Next season, she would love to add one more gallery past the AFC Championship.
While Irsay has learned plenty about photography over the past few months, her family lets her know when the "personal photographer" is needed.
With family members of all ages in the suite each week, Irsay makes sure fans see the raw emotion of Colts game days.
"My nieces and nephews are a big part of my family now and travel with us and you see their interactions with my dad," Irsay says.
"It's fun to be able to create something that is really meaningful. The team is our life and in our blood. We've had a lot of fun with it so I just can't wait to see what next season brings. I think these galleries show an interesting, behind the scenes, look into the Colts and it truly shows that the Colts are a family business through and through. I also really enjoyed showcasing Colts Nation at home and on the road because you were able to see how strong our fan base is and how passionate they are about their team."