Roller Derby Photographing Injuries – a follow up.

As my post attracted a considerable amount of views I thought I’d do a follow up piece regarding the comments received.

The majority of comments seem to be in favour of allowing the documentation of injuries, if they are handled in a sensitive and sympathetic manner. This in turn requires a degree of trust between leagues and the photographers that cover their bouts. In the UK we are starting to see a greater pool of photographers who regularly cover bouts who understand the requirements and boundaries leagues have constructed. I am not saying the situation is perfect. I still see people behaving in a manner that makes me cringe, but I tend to see these individuals only once.

From what I have read, this issue stems from one incident several years ago. The league in question was well within their rights to impose this ban when it happened and from the description the photographer was in the wrong and transgressed the boundaries that you would also find in any other sport.  However, as the sport has matured and grown, this policy, it appears, has not been reviewed and has trickled down to other leagues, who, without question followed suit. It is interesting to note that those comments that were against covering injuries claimed their league had a policy to cover this issue.  These comments also had an essence of fear that photographers during an injury would intrude in to the personal space of the individual, and not stand back and cover it in a sensitive manner. This fear seems like a regurgitation of the original incident and how it was handled. I do not know the skaters or leagues of those who made these comments, but would be interested know if those leagues actually had a written policy, which to me means that the issues have been discussed and thought through. Or, what seems more likely, an arbitrary decision that has persisted without question. There may be good reason for these comments, without speaking to them I cannot be sure, however to this date I have covered 96 events (over 200 bouts, I gave up counting, I got bored) and apart from a few questionable antics by photographers which did not revolve around injuries I’ve never seen any real issues. This may be because the policy is working well, or we as photographers, on the whole, know the boundaries that should not be crossed.

I have also not seen any moves by members of the audience to photograph an injury.

There are certainly key factors that need to be considered in how photography is handed in any sport and how those images are disseminated, the value and why they are being taken. These are the factors that I feel leagues should address. Get down on paper the reason for having photographers, why you want them there and what you want out of the images. How can it be of value to yourself and the sport? Defining what you want and communicating it effectively should limit any misunderstandings of what is expected from photographers that cover your bouts. This can not only help give you peace of mind but also makes our job much easier. If I’m told I can go, here, here and here, that’s great I can work around that, if instructions are vague I don’t know if I’m in the right or wrong.

I may be a heretic in the photography scene here, which could see me burnt at the stake, but I will go on. I freely supply images of the bouts I shoot to the teams involved, hi-res copies, un-watermarked, so that they can use them to promote the league and the sport in general. I retain copyright but give free license to leagues to use them however they see fit. There is as yet, no inherent monetary value in what I shoot, so why not? I do have one slight ulterior motive. When I finally burn the house down, it is only a question of time, to recover copies of my work all I need to do is send a few emails and hopefully copies will be returned so I can repopulate my archive. For the cost of a few stamps it helps insulate me from catastrophic hard-drive failure.

Lastly, I have no burning desire to photograph injuries, I really hope that people do not get injured whilst taking part, but as full contact sport, being realistic, it will happen.  What I do hope for is the trust to cover the sport in its entirety, the good and bad parts, so I can document it fully and provide a complete picture of the highs and lows that make it what it is.

For this change to take place, I feel it needs to come from the top down. The larger leagues to review their polices, which will hopefully trickle down to the smaller leagues. Sure there will be incidents in the future, no doubt, I can’t guarantee there won’t be, but I’d prefer them to be dealt on an issue by issue basis rather than parts of the sport to be censored altogether.


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  2. Leagues get enough "occassional" and "one off" photographers; that rules need to exist to let them know how they are expected to behave.

    As someone who has unwittingly committed a transgression on photographic rules; I think it best that they are best kept "safety first", and "simple" to make them easy to remember and understand.

    If individuals feel that they have the experience and a good enough relationship with the league that they can bend the rules, then in the end that is between them and the league. There are only a handful of togs who I know of who fit that criteria , and I don't count myself as one.

    In the end I am a guest of the league at a private event, I have no "right" to take photographs.

  3. I agree with you in some respects. I do feel there is a difference between the larger leagues where it is becoming more professional and smaller, newer leagues where members pursue it as a hobby and there is a difference in the approach in covering it and why. However I do not believe that 'rules' covering photography exist in most leagues. Well, not written down, and this is where issues occur. Only a minority of teams brief me on the day so I have to leave it down to my own knowledge to abide by the rules. The only hard and fast being 'no injuries'. My question is why? I know the pros and cons but there seems be an irrational fear in the UK.


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