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Sheffield 160: Kay Shackleton

11:41 AMGoalChatter

by Aleks V |

2017 marks the 160th anniversary of the world's first football club, Sheffield FC. Sheffield 160 is a bi-weekly series that goes behind the scenes of the historic club through interviews with players and staff.

This week, Aleks talks to sports photographer Kay Shackleton, who, although not a SFC staff member, is a regular behind the camera at Sheffield FC Ladies games. She also photographs Doncaster Rovers Belles, tennis tournaments, and more.

All photos courtesy Kay Shackleton.
Defender Ellie Gilliatt takes a shot for Sheffield FC Ladies in their first game of 2017. Photo: Kay Shackleton

How did you first get into photography? Do you remember the first photograph you’ve taken?
Unfortunately, I do not remember the first photo I ever took. I’d guess I was about 2 or 3 years old so it is a very long time ago now! I do, however, remember why I first got into photography. My dad (Mick) was a photographer when I was a kid. He mainly did wedding photos and had his own shop on Balby Road in Doncaster. I distinctly remember helping him develop photos in the darkroom at the back of the shop, something which is very rarely done nowadays. When I retire, I might just build my own darkroom and go back to ‘proper’ photography.

What is your approach/style? Any particular influences?
I’m not sure I have a style or any sort of planned approach. I’m self-taught and just like to spend time experimenting and taking lots of photos. I’ve taken a lot more photos over the past couple of years and football has provided me a unique chance to practice, practice and practice. My only influence is my dad. Which is why I only generally use Canon cameras. I still have my dad’s old 35mm Canon safely stashed away and that is never going anywhere.
Sheffield FC Ladies vs. Watford, August 2016. Photo: Kay Shackleton

How did you get involved in photographing SFC Ladies matches?
I kind of fell into this by accident. I am big a fan of ladies’ football which started at my hometown club - Donny Belles. I came across to support Sheffield when they got promoted into WSL 2 with my partner last year and immediately fell in love with the club. I asked if I could take photos and the guy I spoke to said yes. Every game I’ve been to since, I’ve taken photos. It’s kind of perfect to me to combine my photography with my love of all things sport. And if someone else can get some use out of my photos then all the better. I’m nowhere near professional, but you are so close to the action at Sheffield, I have gained valuable experience.

Tell me about your favorite photograph that you’ve taken.
It’s impossible for me to pick just one favourite. The photos that mean the most to me aren’t the best photos in the world, but they are the ones with the most memories attached. Photos taken the first time I went to Wimbledon, for example, as I was so overawed by the experience. Photos of my dogs mean the world to me. Photos of my favourite places to visit – in the UK that’s up the East Coast - are special. Although they just want to make me move there even more than I do already! I’m an avid autograph hunter, so photos of the people I’ve met always make me smile. Meeting two-time World Superbike Champion, James Toseland (Doncaster born and Sheffield raised), and having a photo to remind me of that event bring back memories of watching him race.
Sheffield FC Ladies vs. Watford, August 2016. Photo: Kay Shackleton

Most memorable SFC game?
I haven’t seen any men’s team games, so I can’t comment on them. Although not a fantastic game to watch from a technical perspective, this year’s FA Cup match between Sheffield and Doncaster Belles is my most memorable game. It won’t go down as a classic, but it was the first official South Yorkshire derby between the two clubs and really tested my loyalties. 

Any interesting stories you can share from match days at Sheffield, or from your photo journeys elsewhere?  
I’m probably the most boring person out there so asking me for an interesting story might not yield much. This doesn’t really answer the question, but I am thankful that Sheffield FC let me take photos. Not every club or ground is as accommodating. The players all wear their hearts on their sleeves and give their all in every game. Zoe [Johnson] is a first-class manager and Helen [Mitchell] is a true legend. All of Sheffield should be proud of this team, what they have achieved and for what they will continue to achieve in the future.

Sheffield FC Ladies Captain, Carla Ward. Photo: Kay Shackleton
I’ve seen some of your nature photography. What do you like to photograph outside of football, and why?
I always have a camera with me and will take photographs of anything and everything. However, anything sport wise is usually a winner. I’ve been a huge tennis fan for as long as I can remember and if I’m lucky enough to get to watch some, I’ll be taking photos. I also love Moto GP and Superbike racing. Cadwell Park and Donington Park are in easy reach for me and again taking photos of high speed bikes gives me a good chance to practice, practice and practice.   

My dogs are constant ‘models’ for me and they never seem to get fed up of the attention. And I always come back with hundreds of photos from holidays – especially from places I’ve dreamt about going to, like New York. I can find potential for a photo in virtually any situation, and the good thing with digital photography is that you can just delete them later if they’re no good.
If you could travel the world and photograph anything, what would it be?
Easiest question to answer! I have always said that if I ever won the lottery I would follow the WTA tour around the world for a year and take photos at all the tennis tournaments. Then I would switch and follow the ATP tour around and do the same. And if I have any money left after this, I’ll try the Moto GP World Championship!

If some fans were to travel to Sheffield for the clubs 160th anniversary, what are some places they absolutely must see?
Tough question, seeing as I live in Doncaster! For me, every time I come to Sheffield I see something different. Sheffield has changed and developed massively over the last thirty years. Whenever I do visit I always try to walk between places to see what I can find (and photograph). A trip to the EIS to watch some athletics is always worthwhile. Watch the Steelers or take in a rival football teams game at Hillsborough or Bramall Lane. Get out into the Peak District and explore the greener side of Sheffield. 

Kay Shackleton is a Doncaster-based photographer whose work has been featured by sheffieldfc.com, Doncaster Free Press, and others. Check out Kay's portfolio here

Read more on Sheffield 160 here.
Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #Sheffield160.

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