Flash, Bang, Wallop, what a picture, what a photograph… What makes a good Roller Derby image?

Flash, Bang, Wallop, what a picture, what a photograph… What makes a good Roller Derby image?

I’ve been pondering this for a while. 

I suppose it all depends on your point of view. The non-initiated, the general public and curious voyeurs expect the big hits, skaters flying through the air. This is what it’s all about, right?

Well partly. There is a fine line between athleticism and a car crash. We all know it’s wrong but peaking at the mangled bodies wrapped around a steering column satisfies our curiosity. The taboo. The realisation of our own mortality makes us human. This trait does not always manifest itself in an admirable way. We all enjoy watching the bad guy get their come prance in a movie, but when a drive by shooting happens down your street it’s too close for comfort (the guy missed his intended target, and no, he wasn’t shooting at me).

So, should the emphasis now shift to documenting the athleticism of the sport? Capturing the speed, power and dynamism of the skaters. Concentrating on the positional blocking, tactics and skill rather than nailing that one big hit.

The former requires the photographer to concentrate on composition. Having an understanding of the sport to know where the action will take place. Where the skaters will be. How they will react, the emotion, highs and lows of competing. The latter requires a bit of luck. And this is my real bugbear with a lot of Roller Derby photography. The pictures that generally get noticed and discussed are usually of the big hitters. However, the composition is usually poor, often out of focus and tell little of the story to concentrate on one small part of what makes Roller Derby what it is.

It’s all a question of the what satisfies the audience and ultimately, how the sport wants to be portrayed. To break in to the main stream it needs good quality images of athletic prowess. Big hits will always have a wow factor, and don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place, but to concentrate on them will not allow the sport to progress beyond a side show curiosity.

Not that if I got a killer, crash, bang, wallop picture I wouldn’t flaunt it but is it what we should be striving for?

Comments

  1. My favourite photo I've ever taken at a bout has absolutely no wallop in it at all, so I suspect I agree with you.

    Of course, there's room for both types of photography - rugby photography includes both athleticism and crunching hits, and it's more established than we are. (Again, the uninitiated expect the crunching, and the connoisseurs like the athleticism but probably can't resist a little look at the hits as well.)

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