James Crombie has had an eventful year to say the least.
From his award-winning photo ‘Hurler on the Moon’ to his Irish Times front page cover ‘Murmuration of Starlings’, the 2021 Press Photographer of the Year has seen (and captured) it all.
He spoke to KCLR’s Sunday Scoreline about the challenges and benefits of covering sporting events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There was a lot more going on at games than usual during Covid. There were fans trying to get a look at games and it gave us a different view on sport than we would have had in the past. It definitely worked in my advantage,” said Crombie.
The former IT Carlow student also made the point that there was an element of fear and trepidation of working in an industry that was completely dormant when the pandemic hit.
He said: “There were three months there where there was no sport, but we tried our best to keep busy with different stuff. Luckily, just as that was losing interest sport we came back after a long lay-off, so it was concerning but everything came right in the end.”
The 2020/2021 @PRO14Official season isn’t one we will forget in a hurry. A privilege to have been able to cover the Irish games. Thanks @leinsterrugby @Munsterrugby @UslsterRugby and especially @connachtrugby for running the games so professionally and safe for photographers pic.twitter.com/Xxcev03E8P
— James Crombie (@INPHOjames) March 28, 2021
The star of a well-established and respected photography business in Inpho Sports Photography, the Westmeath man, who was working at the Guinness PRO14 final between Leinster and Munster on Saturday evening, admitted that the lack of a crowd and an air of familiarity makes photography feel like a job despite attending major sporting events.
“You remember certain things, but the likes of the rugby last night are just a job most of the time especially without a crowd because there is absolutely no atmosphere and it’s hard for me, but I really feel for the sportspeople because it must be awful for them.”
He also doesn’t take the weight of his responsibility for granted and knows that his work will be passed on from generation to generation.
“You always kind of think with some events that will this be a moment that will be looked back on in 100 years.
“It’s quite a privilege and of course you are embroiled in the moment, but I like to take a step back and realise that I am recording a bit of history.”
A rather unpleasant component of a sports photographer’s life is getting the right shot. However, this is not just the case for those who come out on top, but also the losers.
Starling Tree. Lough Ennell, Co. Westmeath
Apologies for all the murmuration photos but with the lack of sport have been able to chase them for a few weeks now. Think this might be my favourite!! pic.twitter.com/s5o56iWDrg
— James Crombie (@INPHOjames) January 22, 2021
Crombie doesn’t hold back, however, if he feels that there is a photo there for the taking.
“When it comes to elite guys, I will always get a photo if they lose and it’s there to be taken. For young guys and girls, if I am ever at a school game, I try to avoid doing that and I always tell my younger colleagues to stay clear of that.”
Listen to the interview below on Scoreline Extra: