Award-winning sport, commercial and documentary photographer, Reg Caldecott, is eager to continue shining the spotlight on women’s sport through photography as he plays his part to change the game.
For over 30 years, Caldecott has been behind the lens in his professional photography career after switching from an Accounting path, admitting he could not see himself cooped up in an office.
His love for the camera stems from his father, an amateur photographer who showed Caldecott the ropes in his earlier days.
Ever since he first held a Kodak Instamatic camera in his hands, Caldecott has gone on to shoot at some of the biggest events globally.
In 2019, he was part of history as he accompanied the SPAR Proteas senior team to the Vitality Netball World Cup where the national side earned a fourth-place finish.
Caldecott admits to being a staunch fan of global netball star, Karla Pretorius and the Banyana Banyana team on his list of women in sport that he admires.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Caldecott gives insight into his decision to focus on women’s sport and reveals what keeps him motivated to get the ultimate shot.
Reg, thank you for taking time out for gsport, and compliments of the New Year! You have played a vital role in capturing the best moments in women’s sport – How long have you been a photographer?
For as long as I can remember I have been taking photographs. My dad was a keen amateur photographer and he put a Kodak Instamatic camera in my pudgy little fingers before I even went to school. “Professionally” I’ve been taking photographs for about 30 years.
We know that you started with a career in Accounting. What brought about your change in the direction of your career?
Apart from the fact that I couldn’t see myself being cooped up in an office for my entire working life, I think that my passion for photography just made it a “no brainer”.
Please tell us more about your passion for sport and photography.
“I mentioned getting my first camera, but not that I took to it like a duck to water. I was shooting everything that moved or didn’t move.” – Award-winning photographer, Reg Caldecott
A few years later I started my own darkroom at home printing black and white pictures. Eventually after many moans from my dad about the cost of my “hobby”, I started selling photographs to friends to buy film and paper above that which my dad was prepared to “sponsor”.
I grew up with sport! Living in a small Karoo town with no TV, our family used to make regular trips to Port Elizabeth (400km’s) to watch tennis, cricket, rugby and football. I also participated eagerly in tennis, squash, rugby and cricket. Suffice to say, I think sport is just in my DNA.
What is it about photography that still captivates you?
None of my passion for sport has faded. The unpredictability fascinates me, and I still get rushes of adrenaline during tense fazes in a game. I’m addicted to the “thrills and spills” and almost never find that there isn’t something to photograph even if it entails taking pics of avid fans.
What made you focus on women’s sport?
I don’t think it’s a secret that women’s sport doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. There are also a lot less sport photographers attending women’s sport events. I hoped that by covering and trying to get some publicity for women’s sport it may raise the visibility of women in a seemingly male dominated arena.
Please explain to us what the experience was like being with the SPAR Proteas team at the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in England.
It was a massive privilege to go to the World Cup with a SPAR Proteas team that was as committed as the one in 2019. Reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1995 (against all odds I believe) just showed the grit and determination of the team.
“I started photographing the National netball team in 2004 when they played against Australia in Durban and have been involved ever since.” – Caldecott reveals his lengthy relationship capturing exceptional moments on court with the SPAR Proteas team
I had been following the career paths of the players and it was actually emotional to see them reach their pinnacle performance in that very special team.
I was given a photograph of me with the team after the World Cup which I really treasure.
What are some of your career highlights to date?
There are just so many that it is difficult to pick just a few.
Having attended both the 2015 and 2019 Netball World Cups rank high up on the list. Looking forward to the World Cup in Cape Town in 2023!
Being involved with the Match in Africa 6 between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Cape Town in 2019 is memorable.
Attending the Nike Junior Tour International Masters tennis tournament for 8 years holds fond memories.
What inspires you?
The (Naïve??) belief that maybe my photographs can “make a difference”. Especially in women’s sport, where publicity is sadly lacking, I hope that one of my photographs may stir some excitement or interest in that sport.
What are some of the challenges that you have experienced in your career?
With a few exceptions, sponsorship for women’s sport is the poor relative of its male counterpart. This makes it difficult to get funding to attend some events. As there is also less media coverage of women’s sport it is difficult to justify expenditure on a photographer to attend an event as the return on investment is generally lower than the men’s events.
How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
I think patience has been the key. I just believe in taking photographs and with hard work and a bit luck doors do open and you get the opportunities.
What is your advice to aspiring sport photographers?
“The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” It may or may not be Gary Player who said it, but I do believe in the sentiment. Keep taking pictures, evaluate them and then take some more, and you’ll be sure to improve your sports photography.
Learn from other photographers who’ve been “around the block”. Ask them questions. Generally, they’ll be keen to help.
Don’t get in a “comfort zone” and rely on pictures that have worked for you in the past. Keep pushing the boundaries.
Be persistent and persevere. There will be times when you aren’t happy with your results but keep going and you’ll be rewarded.
Most importantly, have fun.
Who are some of your favourite current female sports stars?
I’m a big fan of Karla Pretorius of the SPAR Proteas netball team who was named Player of the Tournament at the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup and is widely regarded as the best defender currently playing in world netball.
Not a player, but a team, I’m a staunch supporter of Banyana Banyana. I think them reaching the semi-finals in the last 7 editions of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations speaks for itself.
Tatjana Schoenmaker has been a revelation in the swimming pool and I believe she may be a serious contender for a medal at the Olympic Games, Covid permitting. She was the first South African woman to win a medal at the World Championships in 2019.
Up and coming athletes that I believe have a great future are Prudence Sekgodiso (800m) and Zene van der Walt in the 400m hurdles.
What are you still aiming to achieve in your career?
When someone asks me what photograph I consider to be the best I’ve ever taken I have to reply “the next one”. My only aim is to take better pictures and maybe the “ultimate” photograph. I don’t know what it will be, but I reckon I’ll know when I’ve taken it. Till then I’ll just keep on trying to improve.
Photo 1 caption: Award-winning photographer Reg Caldecott has been shining the spotlight on women’s sport for more than 30 years. Photo: Tuks Sport
Photo 2 caption: Reg Caldecott pictured with the SPAR Proteas team at the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England. Caldecott has been photographing the national netball team since 2004. Photo: Supplied
With editing by gsport