A chance meeting with a revered sports photographer had me beaming

Eileen Langsley portrait smI couldn’t believe it. Here I was sitting in Eileen Langsley’s living room chatting about long forgotten gymnasts over a cup of tea with the sports photographer I had kept an eye on for many years.

I first came across the now 73-year-old’s work when I was a young gymnast in the 1980s. I’d clocked her name because she appeared to be the only female sports photographer in gymnastics programmes and books. One day, I thought, one day I’ll see if I can meet her or shadow her for the day, learn a few tricks of the trade and maybe for a day-in-the-life-of-a-photographer type piece.

I’d never got round to it but while visiting a rural sports field in the Derbyshire village of Baslow to interview local people about walking football in my other guise of PR manager for the Community Sports Trust I saw a note pinned to the wall asking if anyone would be interested in attending an evening with Eileen Langsley.

I mean, strike me down with a leotard I couldn’t believe it. So, very kindly, Walking-Football Helen got me some contact details and I arranged an interview and now here I was, sat in her front room gossiping about long-forgotten gymnasts that only truly hardcore fans would remember. Marie Roethlisberger anyone? Stella Umeh? Yep, thought not.

A high serve

An action image of Kasumi Ishikawa (Japan) in action at the 2011 English Open Table Tennis Championships in Sheffield.

We chatted for ages to the point where I had to carry out a phone netball interview for Sky Sports while sat in Eileen’s upstairs office. We looked through some of her photos from the London 2012 opening ceremony to see if by some small miracle she’d managed to take any photos of me as I’d been a performer in the event and Eileen was photographing the event. Sadly it was not to be but it was thrilling and a privilege to see her un-edited photos.

Eileen has covered 13 Summer and Winter Olympic Games having started out as a photographer purely taking photos of girls she taught PE to at school and submitting them to the local paper to try and get them some coverage… Sound familiar?

Some of the tales she tells, particularly about being a female photographer in a male-dominated environment during the 80s, will make your toes curl.

I’ll be writing a series of blogs covering Eileen’s stories but for now I’ll be heading off to a talk she’s doing at the Baslow Sports Ground, this Friday (January 29) because, quite frankly, I don’t think we even scratched the surface of her stories. I can’t wait.

Event: An Evening with Eileen Langsley
“Join us for an evening of sporting nostalgia through the photographic lens. Eileen, who lives in Baslow, has photographed many iconic names in sport covering 13 Olympics. She has produced some of the most mind-blowing images of her generation and this special evening poses a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at the world’s premier sporting events. All proceeds to Baslow Sports Field.”
Fri 29 January 7.30pm, Baslow Sports Field, Derbyshire, DE45 1RZ
For tickets (£10) contact Peter Holt 07801 183913 or Helen Watts 07734448832 or from the Baslow Spar Shop.

Books: Link to Eileen’s published books (printed and e books)

Eileen’s website

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