Editor’s Note: 2015 is a dual anniversary for the Portland Timbers as the club is celebrating its 40th year as an organization as well as its 5th year in Major League Soccer.
Back in 2010, the team launched a series of billboards on the sides of buildings, at the ends of bridges, and across the city featuring some of the Rose City’s soccer supporters and citizens. That was followed by a photo shoot open to all fans where individuals of all ages posed with axes, chainsaws, scarves and more.
Now heading into the club’s 5th MLS season, the Timbers are bringing the campaign back.
On February 6 and 7 from 10 am to 6 pm as well as February 14 from 10 am to 6 pm and February 15 from 11 am to 5 pm, fans can come to Providence Park to get a new portrait taken.
What’s changed for you in the last five years? We reached out to a number of Timbers supporters from both the billboards and fan shoot in 2010 to hear more about how their Timbers fandom has deepened. - BC
A seven-story tall woman stands proud, her left hand resting defiantly on her hip, her right clutching a two-headed axe. She towers over the intersection of SW 4th and Stark in downtown Portland, gazing firmly ahead into the distance.
You may remember that iconic image, just one of a series of similar billboards scattered around the city that helped mark the Portland Timbers' entry into MLS in 2011.
For that billboard's model, Eugénie Frerichs, the sight of herself astride a downtown Portland building came as something of a shock.
"I just showed up one day after work and did [the photo shoot]," she said. "Helping out friends, basically, but not really thinking anything of it. I had no idea what it was for or how it was going to be used. I certainly didn't know it was going to be a massive billboard."
- PHOTOS: The 2010 Billboards
"Then I got this e-mail from the creative director after it was out, and he said, 'It looks so good!' And I said, 'What looks so good?'"
Frerichs raced downtown to see the ad for herself and was stunned by its height. "I'd never seen myself at that scale before," she said.
Despite appearing on such a massive billboard and one in so public a place, Frerichs didn't exactly become an overnight Portland sensation. The reason? Between the time when she took the photo and the time when the billboard went up downtown, Frerichs had gotten a hair cut.
"Because I really looked so different, I never got stopped on the street," she said. "I think friends just thought it was funny. I knew a couple other people who were in the campaign, too, so we just had a good laugh [together]. It was all just fun."
Far less surprising to Frerichs, however, was the Timbers' immediate success within the Portland community. She feels that both the club and the sport of soccer are consistent with the character and culture of the city she calls home.
What makes the team so special, she says, is an element of hometown pride you don't always get from every team or from every sport.
"I love that you always know in Portland when a Timbers game is happening because you see, all over the city, people wearing green and white and wearing their scarves. There's a mass migration from all the quarters of the city towards the Park, which is really cool."
After the photo campaign debuted in the fall of 2010, Frerichs worked for three years as an art producer for the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy. That position offered Frerichs the flexibility to pursue her own side projects. These included a three month photography project covering farming in British Columbia and Alaska, and a trip to South America, traveling and photographing Patagonia National Park in Chile.
Today, Frerichs still lives in Portland. While she's currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in photography, she still finds time for her photographic adventures, recently trekking out into the Sierras for a shoot.
When asked to reflect on her experience with the team and the campaign, Frerichs noted how proud she is to have been a part of something that sparked so much creativity from the entire Timbers community, from fan to photographer.
"I also love that the phase of the [We Are Timbers] campaign was opened up to fans from all over the city," she said.
"I was happy to be part of the project that triggered that."