Photographing injuries - a solution.

Photographing injuries in Roller Derby has always been a sticky subject in the UK. I have written about it on several occasions, trying to examine where this cultural phenomena came from. It seems to be unique in the sporting world. I understand the argument from all sides, I’m not that much of a bastard to just examine it from my perspective. Having attended Sci-fight, the organisers have given me a solution, a solution I should have realised long ago.

For a photographer, the dilemma is, if this rule is enforced, where does an injury start?

The unwritten rule at present, it’s when a skater doesn’t get up. More often that not a skater will go down, the play will stop, but they will get up on their own accord, winded or with cramp. Is that an injury? Can I shoot it? According to the unwritten rule, no. The refs will shield the skater, an act I feel uncomfortable with, and I am forced to drop my camera in fear of being vilified. Injury?

On rarer occasions a skater will go down who is truly injured and requires medical help, rarer still, hospitalisation. Thankfully this is rare. The routine described above is the same. I am not an ambulance chaser. I really hope it doesn’t happen. However as a photographer, if I end up fearing shooting anything that could end in an injury, my output will just be pictures of the cake stand.

The big question is, when can I shoot, when should I stop?  As a photographer I will shoot the hits, at the time I do not know if a hit will result in an injury. If it does result in an injury, will I remember when I come to process the shots?  To me it’s just another hit. Is the act/hit okay to show rather than the result?  What are we trying to protect? The act, the intent, the result?  I’m not going to go in to the ethics of censorship, an issue I’m passionate about and could result in myself being labelled the dark lord of the dung heap.

Anyway, thanks to Sci-Fight and Alan Yentob I have a solution. Like a good magician I’m not going to reveal my technique, not yet. I fear I will be hounded, but here goes, perhaps it’s time to push the boundaries.


  1. Hi Jason, As an organiser of Sci Fight, I would be interested in hearing what this solution is, to gain some clarity. Regards Dr Stevel

  2. Actually, it's not really a solution, well apart for myself and maybe one or two others. I never trained as a photographer and have talents elsewhere.. Sorry for being a bit cryptic but I'd like to see peoples reaction. They may be horrified by it. Anyway, for a clue it's in the programme.

  3. Darn, did you see what I wrote before or has it disappeared?
    Basically I say no to censorship but do respect the wishes of the downed skater - ie don't publish photos taken if they're not happy with it.
    When you take photos at a bout are you a documentary photographer or an advertising photographer?
    If you are there to document then go ahead and get it all - warts & all. Roller derby is a tough sport and injuries happen. I don't think we should put a pretty polish over it like it never happens. I imagine that many people would like to see documentation of what happened when they got hurt. However I've not had a serious derby injury myself so I'm not really qualified to comment. I do also think that a bit of respect and dignity should be given, so I say take the photos but check with the injured skater if they're ok with it afterwards.


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