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Meet Chicago's College Sports Photographer

CHICAGO — Sports fans who admire the photos of Chicago's university athletic programs likely are looking at the work of freelancer Steve Woltmann.

That's because Woltmann, a Wrigleyville native, takes shots of DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Loyola, Chicago State, Roosevelt and Robert Morris universities, not to mention many of the city's professional teams.

"He does what he does because he loves it, and you can tell that every time you see him," said Roosevelt associate athletic director John Jaramillo.

Woltmann, 51, has been working the freelance scene since he was laid off in 1992 when Copley Newspapers merged the Wheaton Daily Journal into the Naperville Sun.

"I wanted to try the freelance thing and see how it would go for a year or two. Those two years became 21," said Woltmann, who lives with his wife and two children in Lisle.

Woltmann, who had 15 years of newspaper experience, slowly but successfully built his freelance connections.

The first school to hire him on a consistent basis was UIC because a Sun-Times reporter friend of Woltmann's recommended him.

Bill Behrns, then a Flames sports information director, liked Woltmann's work, and when Behrns took a similar position at Loyola, he brought Woltmann with him.

"It was a no-brainer to bring Steve on board as our team photographer because I knew we were getting one of the best in the business," said Behrns, Loyola's assistant athletic director for communications.

Woltmann shoots action and profile shots, in addition to team photos, head shots and promotional/marketing work.

A recent action photo taken by Woltmann at a Chicago Wolves game ended up on Sports Illustrated's iPad app.

"Steve has a knack for being able to capture the raw emotion involved with sports," said Mike Gordon, the Wolves' president of business operations.

Woltmann, who said he consistently works 18-hour days, noted his calendar is always full and said he tries not to get stressed out by looking too far ahead.

"But I just make it seem to work," he said.