Ronnie and Jimmy celebrate victory
Jimmy White toasts his victory in The Masters at Wembley with the Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood
For me, photographing snooker isn’t only about shooting images of the player hitting balls around the table, although those images can make tremendous pictures. I sometimes spend hours watching the play; just waiting for the right moment to take the picture. Waiting for the player to move into the right position. Watching their expressions, to capture that moment which portrays their frustration, excitement and passion for the game.
To fully cover snooker I need to watch what is happening off the table, as well as on it. Trying to capture images of the players away from the table is a challenge – and one that I enjoy – although I am not sure the players do as much.
Over the years I have built up a sizeable collection of ‘off-table’ images, as I call them. Images where the personality of the player is shown, their interests, their hobbies, their life. Without being intrusive; it is just a matter of keeping an eye open for the opportunities, and requested the players co-operation, and pardon for interrupt their free time. Most of the time they are happy to pose for pictures, other times they refuse – because of the pressure of the tournament, or because they don’t want to – and I respect that and wait for the next time.
Ronnie and Jimmy
Below, are some of my images from these ‘off-table’ sessions. I particularly like the image of Jimmy White with Ronnie Wood. Ronnie is a frequent visitor to snooker and on this occasion I managed to catch them both together. They agreed for a picture. I only had a few moments, but after two shots I asked Ronnie to give it some oomph, and he did, great. The picture later appeared in The Guardian, and a couple of other papers I think. Afterwards. I got the picture signed by them both, but it took another two years!
Stephen Hendry eats locusts
A few years early it took me about three days to persuade Stephen Hendry to agree to a picture in Thailand, where a snooker tournament was being played. The prospect of holding a deep-fried locusts didn’t appeal to him at first, but eventually he agreed and joined in the fun. The picture appeared in the Scottish national newspapers the next day.
Steve Davis enlists help from the Vikings
An impromptu picture presented itself one day while I was wandering backstage during the UK snooker tournament in York. Steve Davis had reached his first semi-final for a number of years, and so the newspapers were buzzing about the match the following day, I needed a picture. As I was walking through the BBC area, I noticed a group of vikings – which is not the usual thing to happen these days! Fortunately, Steve was also in the area, so I asked him to pose for a picture with them. As usual, Steve is great in front of the camera, so it wasn’t difficult. Even the lighting crew put the lights on for me. The picture appeared in the papers the following day.
Flying high for snooker
While I was photographing the UK snooker at Preston’s Guild Hall, I noticed that there was a walkway that ran around the roof. It looked as though it would make a picture. So I spent the day looking at this and found that maybe the picture was possible.
Before the match started I climbed into the roof space and moved onto the walkway just over the table. After removing everything that I did not need, even the dust from my pockets I gingerly crawled out into space, directly above the table, and waited for the match to start.
I was leaning into space up to my lower chest and the pain was excruciating. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the player to get into the perfect position, and, making sure I didn’t knock anything onto the table, I grabbed a couple of shots and quickly drew back to the safety of the walkway. I was shaking, and it took a good five minutes before I could get down from the roof and onto the floor. It made a great picture, and was used in some newspapers and magazines later.