When you have a lifelong passion, there are beats and rhythms which can seem inescapable. They might fade in and out but they often recur if you just can’t give it up. There are less savoury comparisons with addiction, the way habits and cravings almost develop a life of their own.
In fact, the BBC itself not long ago published a magazine article about superfans, those that attended religiously for 30 years or more, obsessively following their teams, or bands. It mentions how it isn’t just the thing itself, it is the routine, the rhythms, everything around it.
For me, there are small symmetries too in the photography itself. As a kid I used to sketch footballers from images in Shoot and Match magazines, intrigued by strange looking clashes of bodies in aerial combat – and this often makes an interesting photograph. I distinctly remember one featuring then Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, claiming a ball off the top of a defender’s head. This seeped into my taking a basic camera to the first professional games I attended, hoping to catch a piece of action for myself.
Elements of being a football fan are taken from you when you sit behind a camera to do a job. There’s still the regular involvement, the being a close part of it; but occasionally you rue not seeing the magical moment for a fan: the moment the ball hits the back of the net. You don’t have permission to savour it, to jump around and behave like a lunatic for a few seconds when it does. You have to focus, primarily because it’s mostly images of goals and celebrations that sell. So while photographing football is borne of fandom, of passion, it’s also a challenge removed from it.
This season has been deeply memorable and afforded me a regular proximity to the theatrical heroes, geniuses and jokers of many bedroom walls. And after a crippling, harrowing investment, I’ve earned a little cash back from it too. Not much, but some. Hopefully it’ll carry on in the same way for a while.
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