Every Tuesday or Wednesday night during autumn and winter, when the evenings are nice and dark, I go along with my camera and tripod to where a floodlit football match is taking place. Instead of going inside the ground to photograph the match, I spend most of the ninety minutes taking long-exposure photographs of the surrounding area. I find that the local landscapes are temporarily transformed for those two hours a week. Nearby cul-de-sacs, terraced streets and farmer’s fields are lit like Hollywood film sets until the referee blows the final whistle. Soon after, the lights go out one by one and everything looks normal again. It makes no difference to me if it’s a big Premier League stadium dominating a city skyline or a small village club ground nestled away behind Mrs Wilkins’s washing line. I think that they are all spectacles crying out to be photographed. I have now photographed well over 150 of them.
This never-ending journey started on a Rotherham bridge in December 2004 as the home team were battling to a 2-2 draw with local rivals Sheffield United at their old Millmoor stadium. I didn’t know how to photograph it, but I was used to taking pictures of people, so I included myself in the frame in a ghostly pre-selfie age selfie. I soon dropped that idea. The seed for all this was sewn back in the early 1980s though, as we walked, with a great sense of excitement, from our Grandad’s house in Bootle to Everton FC’s Goodison Park stadium for their midweek night matches. The excitement usually turned to disappointment soon after kick-off, but I never forgot that feeling of the distant floodlit sky acting like a beacon drawing us all in towards it. I felt a similar feeling walking to Bognor Regis Town v Altrincham three decades later, so there must be something in it. I’m sorry if your club isn’t included in this collection of photographs, but I hope that you’ll find something you like. Thanks for looking.
- Ian Hughes
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE PICTURESCLICK HERE TO SEE THESE PHOTOS IN THE GUARDIAN'S WEEKEND MAGAZINE (AUG 2014)