Lifelong North Bergen resident Bill Menzel has made a career out of taking pictures of classic American pastimes.
The freelance photographer has captured stunning images of Yankee legends such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez. He’s also traveled to wildlife havens such as Alaska and Yellowstone National Park to obtain snapshots of American Bald Eagles.
“It’s what I do for a living at this point,” said Menzel.
The self-described “Yankee Lunatic” has made a living for the past five years photographing the Yankees during nearly every game of the season and playoffs, including the 2009 World Series title. He also has freelanced for the New York Rangers, Giants, Jets, Mets, as well as the New Jersey Devils and Nets.
“Sports are really what I love,” said Menzel, who added that he also makes a habit of walking around James J. Braddock North Hudson Park and taking snapshots.
Menzel also has successfully sold photographs of celebrities to publications such as People and Star magazines.
“It’s a very competitive [industry],” said Menzel. “There’s a lot of photographers and not a lot of publications that buy the photos.”
Menzel mentioned one occurrence in which he photographed a Jennifer Lopez concert. After hearing that Lopez had begun dating one of her dancers, he managed to crop his photographs together and have them sold to popular magazines. He said the photographs occupied a full page in both People and Life and Style magazines.
“It’s hard to make a living at it,” said Menzel, “but you’ve got to [work hard].”
For Menzel, the motivation is the rare pristine photograph that is often the result of a myriad of snapshots.
“When you take a really good photo, and you look at it, it’s exciting as all hell, said Menzel. “Now you can take that photo and you can share it with your friends and family. Everyone’s excited by a really good photo.”
“It just makes you want to keep taking them,” Menzel added.
“When you take a really good photo, and you look at it, it’s exciting as all hell.” – Bill Menzel
Menzel’s career began while attending North Bergen sports events in an effort to learn more about photography and to supply different district parents with photographs of their children.
“I never really had any training,” said Menzel. “Everything I was learning was for the most part self-taught.”
“So I just started taking photos of anything and everything,” Menzel continued. “I started doing it more as a hobby.”
Eventually, Menzel began accompanying blind sports reporter Ed Lucas to various events. Menzel would often assist Lucas in taking photographs during New York Yankees games.
“He needed somebody to take him, and I needed to get back down on that field,” said Menzel.
After ten years, Menzel began reaching out and earning contacts with different sports photographers.
“I was living a dream standing on the field of Yankees Stadium,” said Menzel, “and basically I said, ‘I gotta learn how to take pictures.’”
Menzel eventually abandoned his career in home improvement to focus solely on a career as a freelance photographer, a path he remains following to this day. In fact, he still frequents North Bergen sports events to hone his craft.
Visit billmenzelphotography.com to see some of Menzel’s work.
Stephen LaMarca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.