Sports Football

Football photographer: 'Somebody stole a piece of me'

Ottawa Sun Sports Columnist Tim Baines

By Tim Baines, Ottawa Sun

Photographer Johany Jutras surveys the action on the field while she shoots an Ottawa Redblacks game for her book. (Chris Hofley photo)

Photographer Johany Jutras surveys the action on the field while she shoots an Ottawa Redblacks game for her book. (Chris Hofley photo)

When much of her young career’s work — including thousands of photos from Ottawa Redblacks games during the 2015 season — was stolen, Johany Jutras cried.

And cried. And cried. She was devastated, heartbroken.

It made no sense to the professional photographer, why anybody would take hard drives, worth maybe $30 in a pawn shop, when her apartment in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area was robbed sometime between Dec. 13-24?

“I came back (from vacation) and discovered my place had been broken into,” said Jutras. “They took my TV, electronics, my wine collection ... and all my hard drives. I don’t care about the TV, I don’t care about anything — except for my hard drives. And it’s not the hard drives themselves, it’s what’s on them.

“I spent Christmas alone because I didn’t want to ruin my family’s Christmas. I went to a hotel and I pretty much cried for two or three days. I’m a freelancer, I don’t have a pay cheque that comes in every Thursday. I have to go out and work so I’m now trying to move forward.”

Going on two years ago, Jutras sold almost everything she had, including her camera equipment, to finance a road trip across the country, with a stop in each CFL city. In November of 2015, the brilliant photographic results of that trip were in a self-published 124-page book, Our League, Our Country. During that season-long journey, Jutras was in Ottawa for several games.

“I spent a lot of time in Ottawa, those were some of my favourite photos,” said Jutras. “I found the fans passionate. There’s something special in Ottawa. You can’t compare what’s going on in Ottawa to anything going on in the CFL right now. If you’re a fan from outside, then you travel to every stadium ... later, ask that person, where did you have more fun, where were the fans most involved? I think that fan would say Ottawa.”

Jutras holds out hope she will recover her photos. There are ways for the thieves to dispose of the hard drives without getting arrested.

“Maybe if they realize it’s not worth anything, maybe they feel bad and wonder how do they give it back to me without getting caught?,” she said. “Put them in a big bag, leave a note that the contents belong to Johany Jutras, and drop the bag off in a train station or a subway station or a hotel lobby where there are a lot of people. Somebody’s going to find it and I’ll get it back.

“It really sucks. If these guys (are thieves) for a living, they probably need the TV more than I do. But the hard drives ... that’s my entire life. I worked really hard for what I have. It’s super sad that I lose everything that I worked so hard for ... for something they won’t make money off. I feel like somebody stole a piece of me. They can’t steal my talent, they can’t steal what I’ve accomplished, but they can steal the photos and it’s frustrating because it’s not worth anything for them.

“You have to take the time to be sad, mad and frustrated. Then you have to tell yourself it’s time to move on. More crying isn’t going to bring back my hard drives.”

HIGH TURNOVER RATE COMING?

General manager Marcel Desjardins says the Ottawa Redblacks “aren’t in the business of doubling people’s salaries.”

So, with more than 20 players from the Redblacks’ 2016 Grey Cup roster potential free agents, some seeking big paydays, there’s a pretty good chance many won’t be back.

On Wednesday, the Redblacks announced the re-signing of Canadian defensive lineman Andrew Marshall (two-year contract extension) and the signing of American receiver Armon Binns.

Desjardins is all ears when it comes to listening to what kind of salaries agents are seeking for their clients with the Feb. 14 start of CFL free agency a bit more than a month away. But if the initial demands are out of whack, there’s a good chance that player is gone.

“Sometimes what they ask for, it’s unrealistic in our minds, but realistic in theirs,” said Desjardins. “If anybody thinks he can (double his salary) elsewhere, then hey, I hope it happens. But it won’t happen with us. If it’s unrealistic, I say we’re never going to get there. That’s what happened last year (with Justin Capicciotti).”

While there’s a chance some of the potential free agents may return — receivers Ernest Jackson and Greg Ellingson, defensive backs Jerrell Gavins and Abdul Kanneh, defensive lineman Moton Hopkins and offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan are among those unsigned for next year — there’s also likely to be plenty of turnover.

“Agents or players are more inclined to use comparables in terms of their position and years in league,” said Desjardins. “That’s all fine and good. Each team is structured differently in terms of where they decide to spend their money. If somebody feels they’re worth X and we don’t feel like that fits into our equation of the overall cap — whether we think it’s reasonable or not — that’s the guiding factor for us.”