Over the course of the MA I have been following a small group of local photographers who challenge themes similar to my own project of non league football. I have previously written about Colin McPherson and been following his personal work in addition to his work for ‘When Saturday Comes’ magazine and I was pleasantly surprised when he sent me a link to a recent webinar he took part in alongside Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Kenny Farquharson.
The webinar, published by the Document Scotland website, entitled Football, Bloody Hell! Took the form of an informal discussion about their respective projects in addition to highlighting what is important to them when engaging with this type of work. For me it was insightful and interesting and on a personal note it was nice to hear a Scotish accent once again as my Dad was originally from Glasgow. I note this because my own project is emotional in its nature and hearing the participants speak provided a sense of ‘home’ that I had not felt since my Dad’s passing in 2015.
Listening to Kenny Farquharson for the first time was an excellent opportunity and upon further research into his career and concerns, I was quite taken aback when I read about his experiences as a child. As my research continued, I noticed that he was a fellow of the Orwell Literary Prize which further drew my attention as my BA final project over a decade ago was to make a documentary retracing Orwell’s experiences of Wigan in the book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. In making the film I worked closely with the Orwell Prize and found them very helpful to the point where we attended the prize giving ceremony and interviewed a range of important contributors.
Learning about Farquharson’s affinity with Orwell in addition to the warm Scottish accents, I felt that I was in the right place and less anxious about the concerns of my own project somehow.
Reflecting on how the webinar was informative regarding my own approach, McPherson offered a critical insight when he asserts that his work in this area is motivated by his desire to ‘recreate his own memories’ going on to use the phrase ‘reservoir of memories’. I felt that this was poignant to my approach as I am in some way trying to reconnect with my experiences through photographing football.
Recently I had begun to think about the term ‘groundhopping’ and felt that this was the process I was engaging with, however as I continue to scratch the surface of my concerts and cultivate my thoughts I understand that I was, and still uncomfortable with this label. The idea of groundhopping aligns with a broader theme of community which I don’t feel my work is primarily about.
Reflecting on my memories as a player I forgot the amount of times I had to walk into the dressing room of a new team where I didn’t know anyone while fully expecting to take somebody’s shirt from the starting lineup. It’s fair to say that I had my fair share of frosty experiences.
Read and Simmons (2017, P222) make useful remarks about understanding my own project ‘The work may start from a few words, a feeling or question and be a process of discovery, a working towards something which feels right, true or authentic.’ My experience of this project is summariesd well in this instance, I feel that from the outset I had the idea of reflecting the landscape of non commercialised football and felt that I had relevant experience of this subject although initially unsure about the story I wanted to tell. When McPherson makes reference to a ‘reservoir of memories’. I realise that my personal motivations are to tell my own story. It may not be a unique story, but it is a story that I have ownership of. The implications of this serve to provide confidence in my own voice which may have disjuncture and photographs that appear unconnected, but taking photographs by listening to my own instinct is the way to go. Reconnecting with my memories on my own terms in the way that I know how.
When the topic of discussion moved towards the equipment used to make such work, the participants discussed the selection of cameras. This was useful as I often pontificate which camera to use. Without going into detail of the technicalities, the assertion was made that a smaller camera helps position the photographer as a ‘fan with a camera’ as opposed to using a larger camera which may position the photographer as a journalist. Farquharson, when making his project about Glasgow Rangers commented about the fans and their unfavorable attitude towards journalists being a challenge that he faced. Having attended Old Firm matches in the past, I couldn’t help but think that I would feel a little nervous as a journalist amongst Rangers fans in small Scottish football grounds with less regulation. However the outcome of the discussion yielded an important consideration going forward which will be the selection of camera I use for shooting. To date I tend to prefer my Cannon 5D, especially in Winter or evening matches as I am able to use a speedlight where necessary. On occasion I have used my Fuji XT20 which is a small but powerful rangefinder camera. The Fuji will essentially enable me to look like a fan with a camera as opposed to the Cannon which may allude to my differing intentions of the fans.
As the webinar progressed the conversation turned to the type of photographs that editors look for. This was really useful and a subject that I have little knowledge of at present. Relevant advice by McPherson being the idea of encompassing ‘air’ in the shot, ‘look for the whole story in one photograph and to make work that illustrates the football match as an event and not just a game. With Farquharson adding his approach of bright, tight and upright when referencing his portrait/documentary work.
At the end of the webinar I found that I had pages and pages of notes and guidance, much of which I had already been doing to some extent however I cannot stress enough how useful it was to listen to the advice provided. The golden rule in a personal sense was McPherson when he states that his intention is ‘to look for the photographs that other photographers don’t look for’. I feel that this is similar to the approach that I have taken from the outset of the MA, without being fully able to explain why. I feel that I have now established that my project is about reconnecting with my own experiences as a player. Only now taking the time to photograph the vernacular elements of the game that I used to stare at when the ball had been kicked out of the stadium or someone was injured. Sometimes while the game was taking place.
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Read and Simmons (2017) Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.
McPherson, Sutton-Hibbert and Farquharson (2020) Football, Bloody Hell! Document Scotland, 9th October. Available at: https://www.patreon.com/posts/42446486?fbclid=IwAR2dRKHR5Ep_xOVy-mD5jJtJNF5gCV2bAo3_BBFB_V8yHPN-lyMDvT0O06Q (Accessed 11th Oct 2020)