Be more professional – Don’t be a dick.

Derby has had an interesting relationship with photography. Interesting is the best word I could find, bizarre, may be better, but maybe not useful. Derby itself has changed dramatically over the past few years, from what may be called a spectacle in to a fully-fledged sport. The spectacle side may have attracted the wrong sort of photographer, and this set a precedent, in the UK at least. I have been trying to find out where these precedents came from and they seem to have stemmed from a few individual incidents.

I have blogged on being allowed to photograph injuries in the past. The belief that it is wrong has become so ingrained in Derby culture that I doubt we will ever change it. I will hold my hand up and say I don’t agree with this policy, but that’s going to change nothing. These incidents have affected team’s policy towards photographers and the waivers we are asked to sign. Again, I don’t agree with them. I will sign some, for bouts I want to get in to and the ones issued by teams are usually mild compared to those set by some competitions. I exclude the Blood and Thunder World Cup as their policy was excellent.

I feel this has come about by those involved in these competitions not knowing the law, understanding individual’s rights, the right to privacy and the difference between editorial and commercial work. I’m not going to delve in to these subjects now as they are far too complex. I’m no expert but after my issue with one particular waiver I did seek legal advice and read up on the law and my interpretation is that whoever puts these things out have got it all wrong.

So if the people that run these events aren’t going to change what can we do?

My approach is to be more professional to prove that we can be trusted. A camera and permission to be there does not give you the right to wander wherever you wish. I have seen photographers, who really should know better push the boundaries to the extreme, and in turn witnessed new photographers to the game copy their behaviour.

In Derby, we are lucky to have a great deal of freedom, more than we’d get in any other sport, so don’t abuse that trust.

I’ve seen photographers whilst the game is in play wander in to the penalty box, team bench areas, use the boxes in the centre of the track as a very rough guideline, if I can dangle my foot vaguely near it I can lunge as far as I can get away with type behaviour. Wander round the ref’s lane as if it’s a private photographer’s walk way, wander on to track during time outs to take photos etc…

Would you be allowed to run across the pitch at Old Trafford or enter the player’s technical area? No, if you did, you’d be banned.

Now, I have to say teams have to bear some responsibility for this behaviour. Usually, we are asked to consult with the head ref as to what we can and cannot do. What do head refs know about photography and don’t they have enough to do? If they are reffing the game how can they keep an eye on the photographers? Teams I work with that have a dedicated photographic liaison person help to simplify things. Proper briefings can take place and a dedicated person has responsibility and the power to question an individual’s behaviour.

Now, while teams have a lot they can do, I urge photographers to look at their own behaviour, reflect on their own practice and how it impacts the game. Be more professional, don’t push the boundaries. Because all it’ll take is another incident, a skater/ref tripping over a photographer/gear and another policy will be put in place to curtail our access/what we can shoot.

Watch professional photographers at any sporting event to see how they conduct themselves, they know their livelihood is at stake and so treat the athletes and sport with respect, in Derby it should be likewise.

Derby is still a work in progress, there are still many, many, things that could be done better, but if we all act professionally in our own sphere of excellence we will get there.

Sheffield, waived their waiver this weekend, the briefing from Carnage was simple, ‘Don’t be a dick’. It worked well for me.


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