By the time Travis Winstead III entered high school, he was losing enthusiasm for basketball, which he’d played most of his life.

But the 15-year-old didn’t want to leave the sport completely behind. He was still passionate about it and wanted to make his dad, a longtime Baltimore coach, proud.

Then his uncle, Lamonte Tyler, handed him a camera.

That was nearly two years ago, and Winstead is starting to find his stride in sports photography, getting requests from students to shoot their games because he captures unique shots of them, at least one student liking his high-resolution shots in particular. They want him to catch their best sports moments for memories, and in some cases even as promotional tools.

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Winstead has attracted an Instagram following of over 2,300 people, using the platform to showcase his work and book new gigs. He’s even started charging for his work.

A scroll through his portfolio shows portraits of basketball players suited up for a game, football players with their faces inches from the grassy field as they stretch or a player crouching low, nearly eye to eye, with an opponent as they dribble down the glossy wooden basketball court.

His new hobby has created a new appreciation for sports — although in a different way.

“My confidence was very low in basketball. I didn’t feel like I was this good or I was always in my head about being good and impressing somebody, but in photography I feel like my work can speak for itself,” Winstead said.

For Jahmari Powell-Wonson, a senior and wide receiver for the City College football team, Winstead has frozen some of his most special moments in time: like a one-handed catch and touchdown in 2022 against Baltimore Polytechnic — arguably the biggest high school sports rivalry in Baltimore — and a MVP trophy he received during a different game alongside his mom.

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“You don’t understand until it’s over that wow I actually got great photos to look at and think about my fantastic high school career,” Powell-Wonson said.

Jahmari Powell-Wonson, a wide receiver for Baltimore City College, has a one-handed catch and touchdown against Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 2022.
Jahmari Powell-Wonson, a wide receiver for Baltimore City College, has a one-handed catch and touchdown against Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 2022. (Travis Winstead III)

He has nicknamed Winstead “tunnel vision” because of the way he captures action shots on the field. Being open to opinions and listening were two things that drew Powell-Wonson to work with Winstead. He’s sure it also helped him promote himself as an athlete. Powell-Wonson is headed to the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall to play football, and Winstead wants to continue photographing his career.

But Winstead’s confidence behind the lens didn’t happen overnight.

On a snowy day over a year ago, Tyler showed Winstead some photography basics: angles, camera settings and patience. He had Winstead mimic everything he did at a school playground on the east side of Baltimore with a fashion model as their muse.

Tyler gave him an older Canon camera after the shoot. Now Tyler jokes that Winstead shouldn’t tell people he started taking photographs with him because Winstead has “taken this to another level.” Specifically, he’s really impressed with how he experiments with lighting.

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Some of Winstead’s favorite things about photography are capturing the moment and meeting new people. He’s met the mayor and his photographer, well-established local photographers like Devin Allen, and found mentors to help him improve his skills. Winstead said there’s also a handful of student photographers at City College who swap tips and support one another’s work.

Winstead has also moved into other types of photography, like prom photos and other milestone and important moments in people’s lives. He recently photographed a fraternity probate, an elaborate ceremony in which new members are revealed.

Austin Hill, a lead photographer with YRN Designs Photography, uses Winstead as an apprentice for events such as weddings. Hill said Winstead already understands the importance of customer service and the business side of photography at such a young age. He also has a leg up on videography, having created highlight reels for athletes.

“Travis is gonna far exceed anything I could ever imagine or do as a content person even myself,” Hill said.

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Winstead only recently started charging for photos after seeing how much equipment cost. For basketball games, he may charge per person, but for events by the hour. His parents bought him a Sony camera, and he’s been buying lenses and other equipment himself. In the summer, he photographed for a summer camp and its nature outings. There he received a recommendation to photograph for the Baltimore Social-Environmental Collaborative, a project led by Johns Hopkins researchers, residents and government agencies to build a measurement and modeling system to support and enhance environmental research in the Baltimore region.

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Though he’d like to work for himself one day, Winstead wants to photograph the NBA Finals and work for that organization or the NFL. He’s a Golden State Warriors fan but wouldn’t mind tagging along with any team as a photographer.

If Winstead wants to look to a model for successfully going from Baltimore to the big leagues, there is another photographer who has made it.

Reggie Thomas II, a 2011 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute grad, became a staff photographer for the Boston Red Sox and is now a team photographer for the San Antonio Spurs. He discovered his interest in photography while in college at Norfolk State University studying sociology.

The successes didn’t come overnight. Thomas said he did a lot of research and photographed all sports while in college and anything he could back home in Baltimore. He freelanced and worked for Baltimore City Paper. Thomas thinks the photography space could be more diverse and feels a responsibility to do his best work because there aren’t a lot of Black people in the field.

Winstead’s online portfolio can attest that he’s dabbling in whatever he can: lifestyle shoots, college homecomings, TEDx events and candid shots he sees when just out and about.

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“I like shooting pictures that you can look back and say, ‘Dang, that happened,’ ” Winstead said.

Omarr Smith Jr., a point guard and shooting guard on the basketball team at City College, can’t choose one favorite photo Winstead has taken of him. Smith’s been photographed by Winstead since he was a freshman at Archbishop Curley High School. He transferred to City College this year and said Winstead’s the only photographer he works with. One of his favorites is a black-and-white photograph of himself wearing headphones while on the sidelines before a game. He appreciates the time and dedication Winstead puts into editing, and “no matter the price” he’ll continue to support his business. He’d love to have Winstead follow his basketball career after high school and looks forward to tapping on him for prom pictures this year.

Omarr Smith Jr. and his father pose for a portrait.
Omarr Smith Jr. and his father pose for a portrait. (Travis Winstead III)

Winstead’s expecting a busy prom season. Last year, he attended over 15 photo ops or send-offs at different proms in Baltimore. He doesn’t drive yet, so he relies on his parents to get him to and from shoots and assist when they can.

It can often be a heavy lift, but as his father has told him before, “If it’s something you love, I’m gonna support it — just give it your all.”'

This story has been updated to reflect Travis Winstead III's proper name.

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983. 

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