Roller Derby Photography: Would you trust me?

This post is based on my own personal observations and may not reflect the policies and views of the leagues whose bouts I have shot/shoot. It is also solely based on UK based bouts.

I have written a few posts recently about photographing injuries at bouts in the UK something that is taboo for some reason. From the feedback I have received, part of the issue is about the trust between the league, photographers and incidents where that trust has been abused.

As such I believe it is us, the photographers, who need to review our behaviour, and bring it up to a standard comparable to that expected in any other sport. A standard, I feel, still needs to be achieved.

At a bout I attended recently some photographers decided to position themselves in what I considered a dangerous position, a narrow strip between the ref lane and the wall, no more than a foot wide. I considered it dangerous, because if a skater or ref was to fly off the track there was no room for the velocity of the person to reduce before hitting the wall or the photographer to get out of the way. Okay, so they will hit the wall anyway, but with a photographer in the way with a camera, I would expect the injuries to be far worse. The lens end being glass could cause further complications, resulting in injuries to two, rather than one person. The likelihood of this is low but there is always a chance.

My real concern about this position was that to get to it the photographers had to walk through the bench area of one of the teams. I observed various people walk through this area without any regard to the fact that the bout was in progress. Try walking through a dugout at a football match whilst it’s in play and you’d be shown the door. Try doing that when Sir Alec Fergusson (thankfully he’s retired) is in there and I’d guarantee you’d never be invited back. It seemed to me to lack respect for the skaters and the sport. Getting ‘that’ shot was more important.

Sometimes you just can’t get ‘that’ shot. As a photographer we should be willing to adapt to the given situation. Sometimes it’s not the best, but it is our job to make it the best it can be. Getting ‘that’ shot is where I feel the trust between leagues and photographers can break down. We must temper our behaviour and think before we act.

I also noticed that the boxes in the centre were being used as guidelines rather than hard and fast areas. I personally do not agree with shooting areas within the centre of the track, non-participants should not, I feel, be entering the game play area whilst it is in progress, but if there are there, please use them responsibly.

Now I am not saying that all the photographers present acted in this way. Some were very professional as always, however a minority were pushing the boundaries with what I’d call acceptable behaviour. Worse still, those who were there who were new to the sport was copying this behaviour, which was worrying.

So if leagues are to trust us, we need to up our game, become more professional and build that trust so that we can all benefit and remain safe.

Personally I plonked myself in one spot and didn’t slide my arse more than 2 foot in any direction for the duration of the bouts, which was a worry, as when I left the venue my pedometer was only showing 8,000 steps. I’m never going to get fit at this rate.  Luckily, train cancellations meant I’d cracked 12,000 before getting to my hotel.


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