Calamia is a lifelong Saints fan and New Orleans native who attended the University of New Orleans. Initially, he began his career in television but eventually became a freelance photographer, apprenticing for a New York City-based photographer and then starting his own business.
“Ultimately, friends of mine were in video editing and I built my photography from that,” Calamia explained. “I started doing architecture photography with a 4X5 camera and then branched out. Architecture was my first passion and I still very much enjoy it, but in New Orleans you don’t really specialize, you become a generalist.”
The idea for FANtastic Saints was years in the making, and Calamia describes the concept as a part of his own love for the Saints. “I’ve been a Saints fan forever,” he said. “After Katrina, one of my commercial clients asked me to do a PR-type shoot for their Champion’s Presentation under People’s Health. For ten years, I’d been doing those photographs and eventually went to the marketing department and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do a book for people that don’t come to the games?’”
Calamia began handing his business card to the superfans he saw regularly at the games and quickly found that one of the most rewarding aspects of finding his subjects was their unique stories. Interestingly enough, many of the costumed revelers had never seen or met each other in the Dome. “Some sat in the high sections, some in the low. I figured initially that there were only about 25 or 30 of these people at most, but as I got into it one led to another and I found 50 people to feature in the book.”
As Calamia got to know the varied stories of the superfans, he found that each one had a special reason for their dedication to the Black and Gold. For many, it is an opportunity to pay tribute to a family member, or to just feel part of a community. Several do charity work in costume and give away memorabilia.
As for his favorite fan featured in the book, Calamia picked out the first person he photographed – Who Dat Warlord, a Rhode Islander who grew up watching the Saints. “This young man comes in once a year. His father was a huge Archie Manning fan and they watched every game together. His father was killed saving someone’s life, hit by a tractor-trailer, and his mother passed away from cancer in her 40s. He always kept that connection with the Saints,” Calamia said. “As a tribute to his parents, he went to a headpiece maker and created this costume.” Calamia also pointed to Saints Fett , who has since passed and whose costume is modeled by his brother-in-law in the book. Fett’s brother-in-law, originally “not really into the costume thing” eventually caught the bug and created his own look, Dat Fireman.
The fact that this kind of project could only happen in New Orleans isn’t lost on Calamia. “I had people say, hey you could do one of these for every NFL city, but the fact is, you can’t,” he said. “All of these people independently came up with these ideas, and yet they’re part of this collective – that can only happen in New Orleans.”
Nina Luckman is originally from Philadelphia but has called New Orleans home for close to a decade. A Tulane graduate and a music lover, in her free time she enjoys cycling, reading, and catching music wherever she can.