"Role models are easy to find in an Olympic year but..."
Role models are easy to find in an Olympic year but a young lad who was born in 2013 isn’t going to remember this year so where is he going to get his female sports stars from? That’s the challenge.
- Evanne Ní Chuilinn
Women’s Rights and the fortunes of women’s participation in competitive team sports is important to me, especially to inspire young women to participate in sports and not assume that physical sports are just a part of childhood and pursued professionally only by adult men. I am interested in the equality discrepancies in this area. I do not understand why men are more celebrated and their achievements more respected. All-Ireland men's GAA football and hurling matches are broadcast on the largest national television station, RTÉ, whereas women’s football is presented on TG4, a smaller Irish language channel.
I talked to a friend who plays Camogie for a town in County Laois and she was very interested in collaborating with me on producing a series of photographs. She feels that something needs to be done to better the situation for female athletes who do not get enough publicity or funds compared to male athletes. I shot the images on a GAA pitch, where we worked together to try capture the perfect pose to show intensity and power sports women have in their attitude and demeanour. To do this I showed her each image I had taken of her as I took the photographs. She knew then what way to innovate and strike other poses to help me achieve my goals for this project. This process was very helpful. Our exchanges, conversation, and quick assessment of the photograph meant her new ideas could add really positively to my thinking about the shoot.
This year was the Republic of Ireland senior women’s soccer team held a press conference on Tuesday 4th April with representatives from the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland and SIPTU to protest their treatment by the Football Association of Ireland. Match fees for international fixtures and the provision of fit-for-purpose tracksuits for travelling members of the team were among the basic concerns made public. The campaign grew and I especially admired the photographs taken by Glan Cody for the Irish Independent. He captured the team captain and her fellow teammates with their campaign T-shirts on and the photographs commanded the viewers attention and represented the seriousness and intensity each individual felt for their campaign for change. There was also a video recorded with each teammate speaking out for themselves explaining their issues and what needs to be done, creating a powerful set of testimonies along with the photography. After heightened media attention, the FAI and the Republic of Ireland senior women’s national team reached an agreement. This is a positive message to women that change can happen and strategic and committed protest can work, but a lot more still needs to be done for other sports.
I have learnt a lot more about the politics of sports issues and realise now how many difficulties women have to tackle within the sporting community itself. Once aired very publicly, there was no credible defence for having left the Republic of Ireland women's soccer team wiht no choice but to to change behind bushes or in bathrooms as they were repeated simply not allowed access to purpose built changing rooms on site on ground across Ireland. Looking back through my archive I think I have captured a few good shots capturing the player’s emotion of the player in the photographs, my friend Gillian, and the powerful feelings she has for her sport. I really enjoyed shooting on location, learning a lot more about the technical side - techniques using flash outside - and how to collaborate with someone as passionate about their interests as I am for photography.
I'm from Portlaoise, County Laois. I was born there and my family still live there, but I live in Dublin during the academic year. I waitress part-time, while studying full-time. Perhaps it is no surprise then that I have found that the photographic genre, style and approach that most interests me is the social or environmental portrait. It's a two way process I enjoy that definitely enriches the research as well as the final image.
I would like to thank Gillian Campion for taking her time off to model for me for the shoot. I would like to thank the Ballyfin GAA pitch for allowing me to use their facilities. I would like to thank DIT Grangegorman college for letting me borrow lighting equipment I needed for my project.
Duff, R. (2017) Tough, Available at: (Accessed:___).