To take the portraits of the Sale Sharks, the professional rugby union club from Greater Manchester who play in England’s Premiership Rugby. These portraits to then be printed, autographed and auctioned to raise funds for the Manchester Village Spartans, the gay and inclusive rugby union football team based at Sale Sports Club.
The portraits had been arranged by the Village Spartans and were to be completed at the Sale Sharks Carrington ground during breaks in training. I set up the lights and back drop at the far end the players’ chill out room which meant while I had a certain amount of privacy, it was by no means private as the squad could see the portraits taking place. Time was a key component to taking the portraits; taking the images during breaks in training, with the squad finishing at lunch time, meant working quickly and efficiently was key.
The reaction from the players in front of the camera proved to be interesting. Some players adopted a default position of either arms folded or posed like Superman with arms down by their sides, which indicated to me that they had either undergone media training or that they had been asked to pose in a specific manner during photography sessions in the past. While this pose may have been suitable for head to toe images used merchandise, it was not conducive to a meaningful portrait. Drawing on my session with the Village Spartans that had taken place the night before, I asked the Sale Sharks players to close their eyes and have a think about what rugby meant to them, be it a winning try or a standout defensive moment, and to then open their eyes. I then took three frames to capture that expression. This format worked for most players with one or two requiring additional frames. As a result I averaged just over four frames per player.
The portraits can be split, by and large, into two camps; those who played in the forwards offered a stern and serious expression while players who plied their trade in the backs was far happier and welcoming. Taking three frames per player did not give any leeway or offer room for error, however I was confident in the process and aware that time was not on my side. Being as efficient as possible meant the players did not have the chance to become self conscious and I was thanked several times for my proficiency and speed.