So I’m a photographer. I just graduated from NSCC’s Photography program and loved it! During my first year I had an assignment to photograph someone in silhouette. With a silhouette, there are no facial features visible so you need to have some other recognizable feature that makes the photograph interesting. “What if I could photograph a derby player in all their gear,” I thought to myself. “That would make such a wicked photo!” The only thing was… I only knew one derby player and only knew her a little bit. Also I’m kind of shy.
I had met Amy the previous spring when I had the great idea to join derby. But because I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of new people I decided to buy my gear first, practice outside all summer, and then join the league in the fall when I was ready. Trust me, derby skates are way different from inline skates (Rollerblades) or hockey skates! Amy welcomed me to her shop, The Cocoon Bout-ique, and helped me find everything I needed to get started. She was my first derby friend!
That summer was a lot of fun while I learned to skate, but since I ended up starting school that fall, derby got postponed because…poor.
Fast forward to the next spring. It’s a year after buying my gear, and I’m now wanting to photograph a derby player in the studio. But I’m a little nervous to ask Amy since I don’t know her too well. She’s having an event at her store, so I go in and bring up the subject and ask if she or someone she knows might be interested in being photographed for my assignment.
“Ask Jewlz!” she says and points to the corner where someone is selling derby merchandise. Oh no – a new person to meet. I take a deep breath and try to walk over there with confidence to introduce myself. I explain that I’m a photography student and Amy suggested she might be interested in being my subject for this silhouette assignment. She smiles so big and so genuinely, and tells me she would be thrilled to be part of it. Yes! Derby people seem so wonderful already.
Jewlz was a fantastic model for my assignment and I was over the moon with the results. Proud of my new photo skills and proud of meeting new people. Onwards and upwards! Things are getting exciting.
A couple months later I was contacted by Heather, the president of Anchor City Rollers, who saw my photo of Jewlz and wanted to know if I’d be interested in helping create some bout posters for the upcoming season. Dreams were coming true, people! The derby people were wonderful AND they want to talk to me and show my photos!
That summer was so much fun. For these bout posters we looked at famous album covers and re-created them using derby players. It was a great challenge that pushed me to try new things in the studio and it was an amazing feeling to see my work printed on posters and plastered around the city. I still don’t consider myself to be a strong portrait photographer or studio photographer (my main photography love is dogs!) but through doing these studio shoots with derby players I’ve been able to practice this skill and see great improvement in both my studio work and my ability to direct and photograph people.
Photo credit by Cassie LJ
Having a studio full of derby players is such a treat! There are people spinning around in the corner while I photograph my subject, everyone is laughing and dancing, talking about the live bout they just watched online the other day or getting pumped for their own bout coming up. They are strong, confident, fierce, and amazing subjects to have in front of my lens. I feel so lucky to have met everyone.
That fall I entered my second year of school, and after a derby-filled summer (watching bouts and photographing in studio) I decided I really wanted to join the league as a skater. It was time. There was a Fresh Meat info night that I attended and felt much more comfortable since I had already met most of the skaters there. Things were falling into place!
I officially started Fresh Meat training in January 2016 and what a ride it has been. I can’t even explain how beautiful and wonderful all these people are. Everyone is welcome. There are such a fantastic variety of people in derby – it’s unlike any other sport I’ve seen. We have skaters of all different ages, body types, gender identities, experience in sports (or lack thereof), and learning speeds. And everyone is celebrated. Everyone is cheered on during skills testing. Everyone is important. And everyone feels like they belong.
Photo credit by Cassie LJ
This year I’m doing the bout posters again and I can already see such great improvement in my work since last year – it’s so exciting. I’m so proud to be part of this league and to be doing this work. Thank you to derby and all you amazing people for helping me take another step out of my shell… to be the skater, the photographer, and the person that I am today.
P.S. If dog photography is also your cup of tea you can check out Cassie's work over here: www.wetnoseimageshalifax.com