I am primarily a sports photographer, covering almost every sport, but 90% of the work I do is photographing football matches. I cover everything from non-league football right through to the World Cup final, so I get to see every aspect of the game.
My mum and stepdad bought me a camera after much pestering and leaving the Argos delivery catalogue lying around where they would find it with various cameras circled as a hint.
I had a great lecturer at my photography course in college called Jim Baker who really encouraged me to be a sports photographer, but my biggest influence was probably Paul Bradbury, the club photographer at Stoke City FC. I used to have a season ticket at Stoke City and would go to the games. At the time, the stadium would have railings and fences to stop you getting on the pitch, and all the kids sat on the fences to get a better view of the game. The photographers would always be pretty close to us as they were between the fence and the pitch, and I thought it looked like a great job, sitting right next to the players on the other side of the fence.
My first job in photography was taking pictures of the mascots with the Stoke City players as they warmed up. I was only 17 myself so some of the mascots weren’t much younger than me! I was so nervous about having to walk up to the players as they were preparing for the game and stopping them to ask if they wouldn’t mind a quick picture. Once the game started, I was given 2 rolls of film to shoot the match with, 72 pictures for 90 minutes.
The big soccer finals are the pinnacle of what we do. Standing on the touchline listening to the Champions League final music or catching the World Cup trophy glistening in the sun before the teams walk out ahead of the biggest game in world football are moments you never forget, and they still give me goosebumps. I always try to take a moment to make sure I remember how lucky I am to be there, and not to take it for granted.
I was once photographing Real Madrid against Arsenal as a freelancer, and was sending my pictures at half-time, and really lost track of time. Before I knew it, the match had restarted. I heard some noise, looked up and saw Thierry Henry on goal, put my camera up to my face and started shooting. He scored and raced over to us, celebrating. I had everything, the goal, the celebrations. What I didn’t have was a CF memory card in my camera. I’ll never forget that feeling of opening up the camera and instantly realising my card was still in my computer. You can’t send the pictures if you haven’t got them. Concentrate on what’s important and what could happen instead of rushing pictures out for the sake of it. That was a hard lesson to learn.
I would tell a photojournalist starting out now to look at a wide range of photography books of all genres. Photography isn’t just what you see on Instagram. It’s in print that you see the best images, and I think people forget that. Introduce yourself to other photographers and ask plenty of questions no matter how daft. We’ve all been there. I’ve found photographers are always willing to help out and pass on advice.