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Dirty confession: I hate sports photography

My friends! It’s been a while, huh?

I just got back from traveling around north with some wonderful characters:

Julianne and Solen opt for an alternative photo-op at the Taj Mahal

Julianne is one of my best friends from college who I met while in Florence (she baked me a pie and done! It was insta-love). Joining us from the south was my kickass girl Solen, architecture student and professional expat (Australian-Dutch-soon-to-be-American)-cum-Paris Roller Girl whom I met while working with the Amsterdam Derby Dames last year. My blogging absence is owed to cramming ourselves into three-too-many sleeper buses, me being hooked up to a saline drip for a day too long and us embarking on a camel trek for not quite long enough.

Alternative transport: sleeper bus birth and our humped friend (ironically named Julian) who loved Julianne a little too much.

But more on that later!

We’re switching gears a bit away from the rugby thing today. It’s confession time.

I have a dirty little secret to share:

I really, really, really dislike sports photography.

Seriously. Blech.

Huh?

I know it may be a bit weird considering my project is all about photo documenting women’s rugby.

But! I’ll explain:

The sports photos in newspapers don’t really do it for me. Snooze. I don’t particularly like taking them either (I’d rather be playing, wouldn’t you??). When it comes to photos, I’m eager to hear the back story — the who, the what, the when, the where, the how — but it’s so hard to capture this human element when you’re on the sidelines and so far removed from your subject.  As a sideline sports photog you can’t be involved (um, I don’t want to be obliterated by an All Black, thank you). The job often isn’t personal. That great distance of photographer-subject is the total antithesis of what I’ve always learned and loved about wielding a camera.

I love portraits.

I often look to Steve McCurry, whose work is frequently featured in National Geographic, for inspiration in my work. He’s extraordinary at what he does. The portraiture McCurry is often a unique blend of gritty and ethereal; his style so real it almost feels surreal. His work situates you in a conversation with his subjects; you can almost feel the personal narrative within the frames. That, I love.

"Afghan Girl, Pakistan," is arguably McCurry's most famous photograph. Taken at a refugee camp in Pakistan in 1984 for National Geographic, McCurry left without ever knowing her name. Seventeen years later McCurry and his team went back...and found her. "The girl with green eyes" had become an icon the world over. She didn't know the photo existed.

That blend of attitude and outlook — the aversion to sport action shots and craving for the personal — has made working on this project so interesting. I love when I find sport sections clippings on my rugby friends’ bedroom bulletin boards or headlines about the girls online. The reporters and photographers who compiled the piece got part of the story — the names, ages, the grins, conversion kicks, etc. — and my job is to get the other half…that back story — the personal details behind the action. I totally love it.

And, when not on the rugby beat, I dig around and still try to channel that same McCurry-esque approach I take to my sport shots.

Some days I rue being a woman in India (and trust me, I’ve compiled an appropriately vulgar vocabulary to match, hem) — especially of the blonde and caucasian variety — but it has a silver lining. It gives me a pass with my camera. In a culture where women are favored to be docile, the aim of my lens is less threatening (and by nature of my physicality I’m usually looked at with lots of curiosity/hair petting which ends me up at weddings or with bottomless cups of tea and chats).  It gives me access to subjects I may otherwise not be as excited about me getting up close and personal.

Over the past few months I’ve collected some favorite faces:

[click to enlarge]

No rugby shots to see here on the ole’ blog today, but I hope you enjoy these ones just as much!

xx

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Dirty confession: I hate sports photography

  1. You know, it’s so often people do what they’re expected to do, just because it’s their area of expertise, and it kinda makes sense on paper. Clearly you’re great at taking sports photographs, but it’s really inspiring that you’re choosing to explore something that feeds you personally over what you’re logically qualified to do. I looooove all these pics! Especially the one with Julianne, Solen and the Taj!

    Posted by reenainindia | February 29, 2012, 3:45 pm
  2. I love your honesty and your pictures of what drives you! So much to take in, and yes I agree behind the scenes seems much more interesting.Keep on trucking woman!

    Posted by raeme jean | February 29, 2012, 11:46 pm
  3. Stunning Portraits!!! WOW! Keep it up!!!

    Posted by Cside | March 4, 2012, 9:14 am
  4. Love the article and portraits 🙂 Glad you made it home safe! However, I would love to be obliterated by an All Black 😉 Daniel Carter please!!

    Posted by kelleysullivan1 | May 27, 2012, 7:14 am

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The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State, the Institute of International Education or the Fulbright Program.

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