An Interview with Lee Hawkins Sports Photographer
Meet Lee Hawkins a UK photographer specializing in Football/Soccer Sports Photography.
He is the Official Photographer for the Blue Square North team, Worcester City FC.
In addition Lee’s work can regularly be seen in many UK publications such as local and National newspapers.
His work is poignant, and raw. You feel as if you’re down on the field where the action is happening.
His rapid rise into the Professional world of Sports Photography is a testament to his courage, determination, skill, and passion for his craft. He knows the face of adversity and has come back stronger. His story and body of work are inspiring.
Q. Give us a bit about your background, a mini biography where you were born or grew up.
[Lee] I was born near London in 1970 but moved away to a small town called Tewkesbury at 1-year-old. Tewkesbury is a lovely town in the picturesque Gloucestershire. I moved to Worcester in 1993, where I now live with my wife Joanne and children Thomas and Lauren. After leaving School in 1987 I went straight into work as a designer in a drawing office but continued at college for 5-years getting my ONC / HNC in Construction Studies through part-time study. This served me well in my job and allowed me to progress nicely before starting my own Design Consultancy in 1995. I eventually employed about 16 people and sold the business to a Swedish company in 2003, at which time I worked for a Canadian Company operating their UK Engineering office. I also enrolled to Bath University and studied for my MSc Façade engineering degree. Photography always ran alongside my main career as a Facade Engineer, although always as a hobby.
Q. How would you describe yourself as a photographer, and what sparked your interest in photography?
[Lee] In 2005 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and became very ill forcing me to re-evaluate my whole life. I was in hospital for 9-months between June 2006 and Sept 2008 and was unable to go out or function properly. On several occasions I was very close to dying, but pulled through after some quite extreme surgeries. September 2008 was the turning point and since then I have gone from strength to strength. Photography for me was a big part of the recovery process and has enabled me to get out, build my strength and engage in things I enjoyed. It was a year before I had the physical ability to pursue sports photography.
Q. How did you get your start in the Sports field of photography?
[Lee] I have always been a believer that in life we have to work hard and create opportunities for ourselves. Photography is no exception and I contacted all the local newspapers and asked if they needed help with covering local events and teams. The Worcester Standard did, and asked me to cover a Worcester City FC game. This level of football (The Football Conference) is a popular training ground for sports photographers so it was a big opportunity. I did it and the paper asked me to continue. Within several months I was the Club’s Official Photographer, had full accreditation with the league and supplied a few more local papers. It snowballed very quickly because it all came naturally to me. I know the game and I know cameras. A perfect combination.
Q. What is your favorite kind of sports photography, and what is it about that sport that interests you so much?
[Lee] Football (Soccer) has always been my passion where photography is concerned. As a sport it offers so many opportunities for great shots. Tackles, Goals, Celebrations, and Fan Passion. I have never come away from a game without a really good shot.
Q. Describe to us the first game you shot as a “Sports Professional Photographer” what was it like, what was the match, what you were feeling, who you were with, etc?
[Lee] The first game for the Agency as a paid semi-professional sports photographer was in League 2 (the 4th tier of English Football). It was between Hereford United and Port Vale, both clubs with long histories. It was the first time I flashed my League Accreditation ID Card and it was such a buzz. I think the adrenalin kicked in for the whole day
Q. Who’s your favorite Sports photographer, and who do you draw inspiration from?
[Lee] Ian Hodgson is probably the most published football photographer in the UK and I see his work after most big games in the national newspapers. Unknowingly, I sat next to him twice at games and only realised afterwards who he was when I noticed his name on his laptop pitch side.
Q. When you started what was your biggest dream? And have you accomplished that?
[Lee] When I started, my dream, like most other football photographers was to shoot in the English Premier League. It’s the pinnacle of the football photography and the most demanding too. It’s a very difficult league to get into and the Football Association are very strict on who can shoot in the league and have high insurance requirements. There are two ways to get in; one is to get employed by an Agency or by you (selling 30 shots to National newspapers in the year prior to the application). My First Premier League game was 13-months after my very first football shoot. Most people take years, I took 13-months.
Q. What has been your favorite shoot so far?
[Lee] My favourite shoot was my first Premier League game. Aston Villa v Blackpool played at night with 44,000 people in the crowd. It was the pivotal ‘I have made it’ moment. It was just brilliant and proud moment for me. I had come a very long way since lying in hospital beds, unable to eat, walk or function.
Q. In your opinion what are the 5 tools a photographer must always have in his/her photography kit?
[Lee] Based on Sports Photography:
A fast long lens (minimum 300mm f2.8).
Two to Three camera bodies.
A good seat / stall
Wet Weather clothing
A good quality Mono-pod
Q. What’s on the horizon for Lee Hawkins?
[Lee]Next season I intend to renew my contract with the Agency so I get the accreditation to the Premier League and do one game a week for them. I will also look to support my local team in the 6th tier of English Football by acting as their Official Photographer. That’s my plan but I have to remain versatile so never say never.
To see more of Lee’s photography work visit his website at:
…and find him on flickr here:
All photographs are Copyright © Facade Photography, and are being used with permission for this article.
Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.