Journalism professor part of Denver Broncos' story-book '77 season
This photo, featuring Butch Johnson in Super Bowl XII, is in the NFL Hall of Fame. Photo: Kenn Bisio
Award-winning photographer and Metro State Journalism Assistant Professor Kenn Bisio has captured images of five U.S. presidents while they were in the Oval Office, countless U.S. Opens, and four Super Bowls - with his first featuring the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII in 1977. Although, the Broncos were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys, 27-10, it was a great beginning for Denver sports fans and Bisio.
In the last 30 years, Bisio's photographs and photograph essays have been printed in nearly every major publication in the world, including Sports Illustrated, Le Monde, Newsweek, Time International, National Geographic, Die Ziet, and The New York Times.
Kenn Bisio, traveled with the Broncos during their 1977 season. Photo: Johanna Snow
The Bronco's first Super Bowl appearance set the stage for the Mile-High City to become the sports and entertainment mecca it's known as today. "When the Broncos arrived at Stapleton airport, there were 25,000 people waiting for them," says Bisio, who traveled with the team as a photographer for The Denver Post. "Broncomania was huge. It was like Beatlemania."
Bisio's photos of the story-book season are featured in a just-released book written by author and veteran sports writer Terri Frei, called "77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age." Frei recounts an intimate view of a transforming city and professional sports team, the politics of the era, and the cultural significance of the Broncos' rise to AFC Champions.
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Tom Landry shakes hands with Broncos quarterback and former Cowboys quarterback, Craig Morton after the Dallas win. Photo: Kenn Bisio
Though he had prime views of the games as a photographer, Bisio says his career could have gone another way because he was "nervous" at his first Super Bowl. "For 20 minutes before the game began, the fans were yelling 'Broncos, Broncos, Broncos,' " says Bisio, who was on the 50-yard line. "I was about six or seven minutes into the game taking pictures before I realized that I didn't have any film in the camera."
Bisio had the experience he needed to recover quickly. Though he was only in his early 20s, he had been a photographer for a while. At age 17, he took his first formal class in photography from Ansel Adams in Yosemite Valley. From there he attended Skyline College in San Bruno, Cali., where he earned an associate's degree in arts. He then earned a baccalaureate degree in photojournalism from San Jose State university. Upon graduating from SJSU, he worked as a photographer and staff photographer for The Associated Press (San Francisco). Next was The Denver Post followed by an 18-year career as a contractor with Time, Inc and others. And the rest is history.
Tom Jackson looks at scoreboard seconds from the Broncos' AFC Championship win over Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo: Kenn Bisio
After a 20-year career as an award-winning newspaper and magazine photojournalist, Bisio graduated from Norwich University in Vermont with a master's in fine arts-visual. The former chair of Metro State's Communication Arts and Sciences Department, Bisio is in his 14th year at Metro State where he teaches photojournalism and social documentary. Most recently, he served as executive director of the documentary film "Social Documentary: Definitions of the American West." Photojournalism major and Bisio's son, Kyle Bisio and Scott Houck, who is the academic media producer in the Web and Instructional Technology Lab at Metro State, received two Telly awards in the professional division for the film.
Bisio has a lot of experience to pass on to his students, with the main lesson being work ethic. "I ask them how bad do you want this? You gonna quit? Anybody and everybody can quit.
"Do you have the intestinal fortitude to do it? Because it's going to take everything you've got."
Poignant questions from the man whose photos made it from the "empty camera to the (sports) Hall of Fame."