Professional sports photography makes you a lazy photographer. Globe Trotsky explains why a life behind the lens covering football has spoiled his passion for regular camera work.
As a wannabe football photographer, I cut my teeth the hard way on the non-existent Wandsworth Times.
Inventing the local London free sheet in the late 1980s with the authentic looking strapline “including the Wandsworth Independent” was masterstroke in fakery. This initially opened the door to a career in sports photography.
From Plough Lane to Parkhead, Stanford Bridge to the San Siro and Santiago Bernabeu, it’s been an incredible journey to some of the most iconic arenas of European football.
Not long after I came to London, Celtic striker Charlie Nicholas, signed for Arsenal. I vividly recall going to a game at Highbury in 1983 and sneaking my camera in.
In the days before phones with camera, it was frowned upon to take a camera into a football match, by stewards at least.
Managing to snatch a picture of my former hero it struck me that, as a keen and proficient amateur photographer, football and photography would be two great hobbies to combine.
As I got on in my 20s, I was able to buy more professional camera equipment and put my secondary career on a more solid footing. With more access to games I was able to get the odd picture published. First in the South London Press, then the Evening Standard and eventually nationals like the Sun, Sunday Mirror and The Daily Express.
Finally, I was able to get some professional gigs with different newspapers and picture agencies. It’s through these that you can really get access to the bigger games.
Personal highlights include covering the European Championships for a full month in Austria and Switzerland in 2008 and going to two Champions League Finals.
In addition, a handful of UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup Finals and national cup finals at Wembley and Hampden, getting to see my beloved Celtic at home and abroad.
Along with the 2007 Champions League Final in Moscow, another memorable trip was to the following March the following year, covering the Barcelona v Celtic game in the Nou Camp on the Tuesday night, then flying to Madrid the next day to photograph Real Madrid losing 1-2 to Roma in the Bernabeu.
The trips were not solely great in terms of football photography and the stadiums and games but also a chance to do a few days sightseeing in many European capital cities you might not otherwise have the chance to visit. And it has certainly whetted the appetite now, as Globe Trotsky, for more time to travel and places to visit
Foreign football trips also gave me the chance to rekindle many childhood memories as a football-daft kid growing up in Glasgow.
The 1974 World Cup in Germany was the first major tournament I was old enough to appreciate. Therefore, to visit the Olympiastadion in Munich and sit by the pitch where Franz Beckenbauer’s West Germany beat Johann Cruyff’s Holland in the final was particularly nostalgic. Similarly, the San Siro in Milan where Celtic played but lost the 1970 European Cup final was also the stuff of dreams. Boy, did an 8-year old boy cry that night.
I was fortunate enough to get accreditation for the Porto v Celtic UEFA Cup Final in Seville. To this day, I’ve never watched the match back. Perversely, you don’t really see the match when you are photographing in the sense that your lens is trained on where the ball is going to be in the frame to shoot the image. So, you can miss bits of the skill and action.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention my reporting partner and close friend, Ian Parkin, who took these images from the press box in Moscow. Fortunately, we have been able to travel together to many of the stadiums and on most of the trips abroad mentioned in this blog.
Outside of football we have many overlapping playgrounds such as politics, beer and good conversation. He has been a great companion and true mate. Often, we would return to the stadiums the following day to take the official tour.
On one of such tour in Munich, I hadn’t realised that the futuristic Olympiastadion is built into a wall of debris that was cleared from the city following WW2 to make space for reconstruction.
On reflection, I certainly don’t miss lugging all the gear around, worrying about parking, photographing in relentless rain, worrying about batteries running out or sitting for hours editing and captioning images.
Cathedrals of football
But I can look back on a side career in which I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the skills and photograph some of the best players in the world, to sit on the touchline of the cathedrals of football and witness some of the most iconic and dramatic moments of the game I played, watched and loved since childhood.
In truth football photography makes you a lazy photographer. I said in another blog that football has it all: colour, movement, joy, despair, drama, passion – all perfectly packaged in front of you in a 90-minute photo-op.
When you have had that experience over a number of years, the thought of setting out with camera in hand around the city or doing street photography just seems a grind; a busman’s holiday.
Hopefully travel photography as Globe Trotsky will shake me out of my photographic malaise. Football, you’ve spoiled me.
To see more about Chris’ work and services, visit the dedicated Photography page of the website.
Globe Trotsky is a retirement travel and photogaphy blog for the independent, budget traveller. A sideways look at travel in a tshirt. Visit www.globetrotsky.com to join the travel and tshirt tribe.