Born and raised in San Jose, California, Kym Fortino is a powerhouse! As an assistant photographer for the 49ers, (I know, don’t you want her job?) she is proof that women can succeed in the world of sports.
Q: Kym, can you explain what your job entails on a daily basis?
A: I actually do photography on the side, and I work at a bioscience company full-time. It really depends on what’s going on with the organization, but I can be working anywhere from 2 to 4 days a week after I get off from my regular job. I’m there for events, training camp, and anything else that is going on within the organization.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: I love the challenge. A lot of people that I meet are like, “Wow, you really know football.” But you kind of have to know about football in this field. I do feel like women in sports are frowned upon a lot of the time, because we’re not necessarily respected in the football world, and in the sports world as well, to be honest. I also study the game a bit more than most people, and I love seeing the intricacies of the game and of the players themselves. So if I’m covering one side of the red zone, I’m looking at the receivers coming my way and I’m looking at their body language, and the way they move their hands. Sometimes when I know a player is getting the ball, his fingers move because the ball is coming right to him. I really have to anticipate, and I love that mental aspect of the game.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to work in sports?
A: I definitely knew I always wanted to work in sports, and I actually wanted to be a sideline reporter. Coming out of high school, there weren’t a whole lot of women working in sports, so there was nobody that really led that pathway. I’ve always loved photography, and I started photographing my kids when they got involved in sports, and to be honest, that kind of ignited the passion. Shooting my kids out on the field, or my daughter running track. I’m like, “Ok, I like this, this feels comfortable”.
Q: Any hobbies you enjoy on your off-time?
A: My outlet is soccer. I’ve played my whole life and I still play. I’m also a gym rat.
Q: Who are your favorite 49er players? Any guys that really stand out to you?
A: Its funny because the relationship between the photographer and athlete is kind of intimate through a camera. Sometimes I see them off the field and I’m like, “‘I’m so sorry for being like the paparazzi sometimes”, because I feel like I’m all up in their business. So I really appreciate the players that see me, but know that I’m never trying to interrupt their pre-game flow. Some of the players, I don’t even necessarily need to look for on the field because wherever the ball is, they’re in the frame. These are the guys like NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Justin Smith. I’m also drawn to the players that are really hungry, and go after everything offensively.
Q: Explain a typical game day on the sidelines with other photographers.
A: Especially this year having a successful season, there has been a lot more media on the sidelines. 4 years ago, you had a little more room, but this year its definitely a lot more crowded because the 49ers were winning and the media wanted to be there. We are typically there at 9:15 a.m. for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff. We’re there really early, mostly getting our gear ready. Between 3 of us, we have anywhere from 2 to 7 cameras with lenses ranging from 15-35 mm all the way up to 400 mm. So we’re covering anything and everything.
Q: What advice do you have for women looking into careers in the NFL?
A: I get asked that question a lot, and I actually started with youth football. I started shooting Pop Warner then I began shooting for a local newspaper which gave me credentials. Credentials are the one thing you absolutely need! You have to start somewhere and get credentials; you can’t just call an NFL team and ask them to shoot photos with your camera. You really just need to align yourself with a media outlet. I’m also really lucky; I have a great mentor who is amazing and has so many great networks, so wherever he goes, I go. I’ve been working with him for 5 years.
Q: How does someone get to where you are? Did you attend any special sort of schooling?
A: Not at all. I just got incredibly lucky and I got aligned with the right people who were willing to teach me: but I was also putting in a lot of work.
Q: From your perspective, what makes you stand out most in this job field? With all the other outlets in the sports world, how do you feel you fit in?
A: I’m 4’7”, and because I’ve been an athlete my whole life, I embrace it and I feel like I’m 6’5”. Sometimes I honestly swear when I talk to these guys on the sideline who are anywhere from 6 foot to 6’5”, I feel like I’m as big as them! So I feel like that confidence in myself is what helps me to be where I’m at. I never feel like I’m inferior because of my size, and I’ve always had the attitude that whatever boys can do, I can do better!