Snowflakes everywhere. They are swirling through the night, have landed on his shoulders, are caught in her hair. The two do not care about the weather as they kiss — or at least that’s how it seems — he with a plastic bag in his left hand, she a little smaller than him. The city lights are visible in the background and without even reading the description next to the picture we seem to know where it is set; there’s no second city like it in the world.
“NYC LOVE,” says the text accompanying the first post on Terrence Brooks’ Instagram account. And this love for the city of New York is captured in most of the pictures he shares under the handle @t.brx. You see the Statue of Liberty, the 1909 Fifth Avenue Clock, and One World Trade Center. You see city life in full yet still motion, you see landmarks and buildings and people. Every now and then, you see the photographer himself.
Terrence Brooks is mostly known not for his photography but for playing in the National Football League. In 2018, his second year with the New York Jets, he led the league in special teams snaps played and also served as a rotational defensive back. After his contract expired in mid-March, he hit free agency and ultimately signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the defending world champions, the New England Patriots.
“The deal that was offered was huge for me. I’ve worked so hard to get my opportunities in this league and it feels great that I’ve caught the attention of Bill Belichick and the Patriots enough where they would want me to compete for a Super Bowl with them,” Brooks told Pats Pulpit about signing with his new club — and continuing his journey up the East Coast after stints in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and most recently New York.
Joining the Patriots is not just an opportunity for the 27-year-old to play for the league’s best coach and most successful organization, however, but also to prove himself to those that did not always believe in him. “I have a lot of doubters out there and it just feel good to have a team and coach who truly believes you and wants to give you further opportunities,” said Brooks. “It’s just awesome to get the chance to prove those people wrong and do it with the defending champs.”
Brooks is expected to leave his mark in New England not just on the field, though. Just like he did on the last stop of his tour through pro football, New York, he will explore the area and capture it through his lens and through the second of his passions: photography. “I really look forward to getting out and exploring Boston,” Brooks said about his new home and the change of scenery it presents for him.
So far, most of his pictures shared via social media show the City That Never Sleeps as a rich tapestry of people and the surroundings they created for themselves. Protesters, bikers, skateboarders, regular people in the country’s biggest agglomeration. In New England, all those things exist as well — albeit on a smaller scale — but Brooks is aware of the fact that him finding motives and taking photos will look differently.
“I definitely feel like your environment will alter your approach. I also think that is a good thing, so you don’t get stuck in old habits or just getting used to a certain style. I like the challenge of finding those great spots to capture timeless images,” he said before expressing one wish he has when it comes to his new town. “I would love to get out and link up with a few photographers in the area and get a feel for the place.”
Brooks’ second career did not start until a few years back, when his first child was born.
“The way I fell into photography happened when I had my oldest son, Carter. I really wanted to have great pictures and video for my him to look back on when he got older. I felt like I don’t have many to look back on from my childhood and I wanted him to have that full experience,” said Brooks. His role as a photographer was only partially tied to his role as a father, though, and ultimately led to him expanding his scope.
“After gathering so much content for him, I kind of just ran with it and found myself having peace and comfort from just simply hitting the streets and taking photos,” Brooks said about the advent of his career as a photographer — one that has to coexist with the other, the one paying the bills. While it is not exactly defensive-back-by-day/photographer-by-night, Brooks knows that he can’t let one of his talents get into the way of the other.
Now entering the NFL’s prototypical business-first environment, the one run by future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick, the former third-round draft selection will need to find the right balance. Judging by his own experience, however, he should be able to accomplish this goal. “To me it’s just hard during the season because so much time is put into preparation and studying,” said Brooks about investing time in his photography.
“But whenever there is an off-week or I get a little extra time to go out, I’ll make sure I have set destinations so I don’t waste time,” he continued. So far, this approach has led him to shoot on the beaches of Florida and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. As noted above, however, most of his pictures show the city that has been his home ever since the Jets acquired him via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles at the start of the 2017 season.
“Brooks paints an atmospherically dark picture of the streets of New York, but leavens them with snap shots from its inhabitants. At times, you feel isolated an overwhelmed by the sheer power and density of the city.” said Maximilian Lottmann when shown the neo-Patriot’s pictures. Lottmann, one of Austria’s most prolific photographers, was reminded of street photography icon Bruce Gilden when looking at the images.
By his own account, Brooks is still trying to get better in this other career of his.
“I’m still learning everyday and that’s the exciting part,” the football player and part-time photographer said. One way of doing that is, of course, trying to get guided by the work of others and how they have tackled the art and its challenges through the years. “When I first started out in the photography field, I really gravitated towards Ray Chopper and Garrett King’s work Just that urban/moody street look really caught my eye.”
According to Lottmann, this aspect is visible in Brooks’ work. “Gilden once said that if you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph. Brooks’ city pictures of New York do the same thing: he’s playing with light and color in his compositions, but never loses sight of the life that is going on in the streets,” he said before also noting that social media platforms like Instagram help talents such a Brooks draw an audience they otherwise may have never drawn.
As for Brooks, his style of photography has a simple background: “Just capturing moments in life was really appealing to me,” he said. For himself, those moments will take place in New England moving forward — a challenge that he is looking forward to: “It’s gonna be sweet!”