Creative Soccer Culture

Young Photographer George Wood Talks to us About breaking into Football

Embracing young talent while showcasing a look at the way in which football photography can shine, we spoke to 17-year-old photographer George Wood about his experiences so far as he embraces on a journey into football photography. A strong style at such a young age, he's a creative who has set a serious bar.

When did you pick up a camera and get into photography as a whole?

"I started taking an interest in photography when my parents bought me my first phone (Samsung galaxy y). This was in 2012 when I just finished primary school. Wherever I went I used to take photos and edit them on an app on my phone. I then moved on to an iPod touch and continued taking photos of people, the landscape and architecture. My interest in photography grew even more and for my 14th Birthday I received a Canon Powershot. This was a big step up from the iPod and I managed to get some half decent images, some of which were featured on itv calendar weather."

At the age of just 17, how did you find your way into football photography?

"In the summer of 2016 my former football coach (Ian Frazer) who was part of the set up at Eccleshill United Football Club, asked me if I was interested in a voluntary position to photograph the first team for the 2016/17 season. Sports photography was something I had never experienced so I took the opportunity. I literally didn’t have any idea of what settings to use at my first game. I then watched a number of youtube videos and realised that just about all sports togs used a DSLR camera which produced better quality images. So along came my next purchase - a Nikon D3300 c/w with a 70 – 300mm lens."

"I still didn’t really know what I was doing so I took the plunge of emailing renowned sports photographer - John Patrick Fletcher - for advice but also a bit of a cheeky ask for him to critique my images from Eccleshill United. JPF is up there with the world's largest professional community when it comes to sports photography so I really didn’t expect a response. I was astounded that he actually took the time to reply and absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of advice he gave. This is one thing I have found with the industry, all the togs seem to be approachable no matter how big they are."

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"I think one of the most valuable things JPF said was to get low to make the footballers look more powerful. He also critiqued my photos and I was so grateful for his honesty. Later in the season I received a message from JPF on instagram which said “You’ve either taken my advice or you’re a very small person”.

"I also received advice and critique from Sports photographer - Claire Epton - who at the time was Bradford City’s Official tog. Claire kindly gave up her time to look through my images and gave advice on how I could improve my shots. All the advice made so much sense and I feel helped significantly improve my shots. I am so grateful to both John and Claire for their time and advice. Towards the end to the 2016/17 season I noticed a vacancy on-line for a voluntary photographer at Guiseley AFC who was then playing in the National league. I attended for a trial, they liked my work and asked me if I’d like to join them. This was a proud moment for me, to be photographing a team just below the football league. This was a real buzz! As an avid Bradford City fan and season ticket holder I used to take my camera to games to try and capture images of the atmosphere both inside and outside of the stadium."

"Then pre 2017/18 season after shooting a friendly between Eccleshill United V Bradford City I was approached by Michael Shackleton of Bradford City who invited me to photograph at Bradford City for the season. It had always been my dream to photograph Bradford City at Valley Parade so this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Again this was a voluntary role but the experience has been magnificent and has helped me learn more about the world of shooting football. I’m really grateful to Michael for giving me this opportunity.

 At school (St Benedict’s, Bradford) my photography teacher told me that I needed to widen my experience and photograph at other clubs. Miss Proctor, a Huddersfield Town fan, phoned the club photographer at Town and asked if I could go along to a game to gain experience. John Early (Club Photographer) asked me to send my portfolio and subsequently come along to a game. I was very fortunate to shoot the Huddersfiled V Chelsea fixture. I was buzzing!! I thought to myself that a year ago I didn’t think it would be possible to photograph at Guiseley, never mind Huddersfield and Chelsea in the premier league. John has been absolutely fantastic with me, inviting me back on numerous occasions and taking me under his wing. I am so grateful to him and the club for giving me the amazing experience of shooting Huddersfield plus the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal."

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Where do you draw your inspiration?

"I’m inspired by any sports photographer that looks for that something different! Photographers such as Robbie Jay Barratt, Michael Regan and David Ramos. I love how these guys use their cameras to their maximum potential and always produce something unique to everyone else after the game. I have also been lately inspired by photographer Stuart Roy Clarke with his amazing collection of documentary photos called ‘The Homes of Football’. This photography collection has inspired me to capture history whenever I go to any sports match inside and outside of the arena."

Have you found your own style? How would you describe it?

"I would say that I have found my own style but it has been influenced by many photographers. My style is probably more documentary because of how I capture the day of a football game as opposed to just the players on the pitch. After seeing the work of Robbie Jay Barratt, I decided to edit my photos to give them a certain style creating something different. I aim to produce atmospheric images as I do like to desaturate certain colours as well as make the image black and white. This editing style also adds to the documentary feel to my photographs."

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As a football fan as well as a photographer, what is it about the game you like to capture?

It has definitely got to be the passion of the fans and the players!! As a supporter of Bradford City I have seen so much passion on the pitch and on the terraces especially with the amazing cup runs we had under Parkinson and the play off final under McCall. One player that stood out was our captain Garry Jones. He would connect with the terraces and increase the volume of the crowd tenfold. A fantastic role model on and off the pitch if ever there was one. I only wish I could have had the opportunity to shoot Gary Jones to capture the emotion and the passion that he displayed.

What moments have you enjoyed the most, any shots that hold a special place for you?

There have been some amazing moments in my short photography career so far. One moment that I was so privileged to be a part of was being a photographer at Arsene Wenger’s last game at Huddersfield Town. It was a day of celebrations with the Huddersfield fans celebrating Premier league safety and the emotional send-off both clubs gave to one of the greatest managers of all time.

Another one of my favourite moments and photographs is the image I shot of the Guiseley Lion dog. The image makes it look like the dog is avidly following the game when in actual fact it was watching its owner buying a pie at the kiosk across the pitch. The timing of this image captures the moment perfectly. I love everything about this photo!

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"The last moment that is special for me is seeing the team that I started photographing football at - Eccleshill United - getting promoted via the play-offs last season. The game finished 3 – 2 to Eccleshill United promoting the Eagles to the NCEL Premier division."

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What makes shooting football in the North of England different to other places in the country do you think? How would you describe the fans and the atmosphere?

"I haven’t shot a football game down south yet so I can’t compare the fans and the atmosphere. I’d love to shoot Millwall though. I’ve seen Bradford at The Den and the atmosphere is pretty hostile. I’d love to try and capture this. I imagine Millwall V Leeds might be a tasty fixture to shoot! Up North at most grounds I have visited the atmosphere has been unreal! There just seems to be a huge pride and passion from all the supporters and football is a big part of their lives. Huddersfield is definitely the loudest football stadium I have photographed at so far."

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What are your ambitions as to where you would like to take your photography?

"At 17 years old I’ve so much more to learn so at the moment I am taking every game as it comes. I am also still at school about to enter my last year of A Levels so concentrating on getting good results is important for my future. I am very proud to say I have recently been approached to represent Getty Images with a schedule of football fixtures to shoot across Yorkshire. I feel very privileged to have been offered this opportunity which is something I am very excited about. Ultimately my ambition is to match my peers and shoot major league fixtures. To dream big - the Euro 2020 final at Wembley and maybe one day - the World Cup finals."

Photography courtesy of George Wood and Getty Images.


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