Prolific New Zealand sports photographer, Alisha Lovrich has always loved the creative arts but she certainly did not expect it to lead her to a career in photography.
In fact, Lovrich admits that she actually had no interest in photography. Growing up, she enjoyed fine art, painting, drawing and illustration space and went to study a Bachelor of Graphic Design at University.
In her first year, a core component of her degree was photography. Lovrich says that she reluctantly went out and purchased a camera, which she thought she would later use to photograph her paintings.
At the time, Lovrich was also into athletics – running at provincial and national level – but, injuries forced her onto the sidelines where she began photographing her friends for fun and uploading onto social media.
She caught the attention of Athletics Auckland where she volunteered her services.
Later, the national body – Athletics New Zealand – opened the doors for her to get involved in shooting for all the national athletics events and eventually, she caught more attention which allowed her to venture into other sports.
Today, Lovrich has travelled the world, shooting at various world sporting events.
She was looking forward to working at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, however due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, she will have to wait another year to fulfil her dream.
Speaking with Kass Naidoo, Lovrich gives insight into her journey in sports photography, shares lessons the world can learn from New Zealand’s approach to promoting women’s sport and offers advice to women aspiring to be in sports media.
(Scroll down below images for the Alisha Lovrich interview)
Please introduce yourself and tell us who you are and what you do?
Hello gsport community, my name is Alisha Lovrich, and I’m a sports photographer, and I’m talking to you all the way from Auckland, New Zealand!
How did you get into sports photography?
Well, growing up, I never actually had an interest in photography, I was more into the fine art, painting, drawing, illustration space. So, I continued that all the way through high school, and I also went to University, studied a Bachelor of Graphic Design, wanting to pursue a career in more illustration-led design. And it wasn’t until, in first year of my graphic design degree – a core component of that was photography.
So (laughs) I reluctantly went out and bought a camera, I bought just a a Canon 600D, real basic, thinking that, “Ok, when I’m done with this, it will be very handy to use this camera to take high-resolution photographs for my art.” Really. (laughs) But, when I started the course, the paper, I fell in love with it instantly, it was suddenly because, in all spaces of, like, art and design, the key components are the same. Your composition, your lighting, your mood, your colour, you know, all those, those generally translate throughout all genres of creative art space, if you want to say, and so, what I loved about photography, was that all the aspects that I would normally put into my art, was pretty much instant, you know?
You know, like, you’d plan it to this point, and then you take a picture of it, and you can see the result! Whereas, you know, when you’re painting something, you draft it out, but then you actually have to paint it. And then you find out soon enough whether its actually something you want or not, and that’s what I loved about it.
I didn’t want to actually go into the sport space, I wanted to kind of expand my horizons a little bit more, different aspects, because I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself leaving University, so my projects during University were not based on sport, they were based on a whole bunch of other stuff, can’t even remember! Ah … (laughs), but, how the sport aspect comes in, is my entire life I’ve been fit and very involved in sport, up to a reasonable level, like provincial, like national level, and through primary school, I played a bunch of sport, narrowed that down in high school to cricket, football and athletics, gradually knocking them off until I was left with just athletics, so, athletics was a massive part of my life, and so, but I was leaving school, finished school, I was dealt with a very long string of injuries, actually …
So, the first year, I was injured during the major point of the season of provincial and national championships … So, and I decided, I would bring my camera to the track to take pictures of my friends. And put them up on Facebook, for my friends. That was it, I had no, … I didn’t go in thinking, “Oh, I really want to be a sports photographer, I’m going to go in and start shooting, and I’m suddenly going to be packed. No, I went in and I was just going to have fun, I’m just going to use my camera, I do the sports thing, I might as well …, and I was going to support my friends. And that’s all I did.
Suddenly, people saw my work, on social media, on Facebook, through my page and my friends sharing it, and I started to get noticed. And I got noticed by Athletics Auckland, which is our like provincial body, and they said to me, ‘Hey, we’d really like to start – you know, it was pretty much unpaid at this stage, “You can pretty much have it all the time, you have accreditation to go into the stadium, and then shoot what you like.” So, I did, and honestly, I only did that for fun. I didn’t … When I wasn’t competing, it was a lot, because I seemed to always be injured all the time, (laughs), so I would just shoot what I like for fun, and eventually I got noticed by out national body, Athletics New Zealand, so massive thank you to them for believing in me from the start, and the rest came from there. I started shooting all our national athletics events, and from there, other sports started noticing me, and a local agency also saw me, and I shot a little other sports for them, I also shot other sports for other organisations, because they saw my athletics work around, yeah, and the rest is history. And, from here, now, I’m a full-time photographer now, it’s not just sport, I do a lot of commercial and editorial-type of work, but that’s literally how I started, and must sky-rocketed from there, so I’m just very grateful.
What courses have you done or what advice have you received that has really helped you?
Well, because I loved photography so much at University, I started taking photography as electives all the way throughout my degree.
So, photography became a large section of my graphic design qualification. And, through those paces, I learned … You know, you learn the fundamentals of basic composition through design, but I learned more specific fundamentals to photography, through those papers.
I got to play with studios, I got to play with lighting, I got to play with the whole bunch of things, and I got to learn how to use a camera, technicalities of using a camera, as well as a whole bunch of, you know, other stuff around photography. All the other fundamentals of how to take photos,
Pretty much how to convey and communicate stuff. That’s an aspect of what I do in photography, I don’t just go out there and take pictures, I want to communicate something, and I think that’s driven all the way down from the raw learnings of photography.
In the sport aspect, I took that information I got, combined it with my pre-existing knowledge of sport, and that was how I developed my sports photography work.
I follow a lot of sport photographers on Instagram as inspiration, and I talk to a lot of them when I see them in the field.
I admit that I am still quite young in comparison, in comparison to some of them, I’m very inexperienced, you know! So, I know that and I still want to take as much information, learn as much as I can, cause I honestly, when the day you stop learning, it’s the day you die. Like, you just have to keep working and keep pushing, keep pushing, you know, keep learning new skills or it’s like, you’re done!
One of the best pieces of advice that I got was from my friend Jeff Cohen, who is an American-based track and field photographer, literally on elf the best track and field photographers in the world, and I got to meet him through the two world championships that I have photographed, one in London and one in Doha last year, and you know, we keep in touch and became friends, and something he always used to tell me, is: “Look to see what no-one else is shooting.”
Like, you see a massive bunch of people, … I mean, to a point those times when you do need the money shot, for your client, but there is, you know, everyone is getting this shot, but what is the other shot? What other angles, what other stories … Are there like awesome shots you capture from somewhere else, always thinking about what else is out there, know what I mean? I’ve always taken that on!
Your favourite sporting event to photograph?
As you have probably have figured out, is: Athletics, by far! There is just so much variety you can capture at an athletics event, you know, you’ve got so many different events, running, jumping, throwing, to many opportunities to create really cool images …
I do also like photographing the more extreme sports, just because I think it’s really amazing, these amazing feats out there, what these athletes are doing, and you can create really cool images when a human is, like, flying in the air, you know!?
Top sports photographers you admire?
Jeff Cohen is one of them, as well as my friend Howard Lao from America, also Jason Suarez, who’s also an American, these guys I hung out with in Doha, and, you know, I meet at all the world championships, who I’m friends with, and they’re amazing …
Uhm, I also have a list below me, because I’ll forget: Naomi Baker, Angelo Szymaras, uhm, Ian Walton, Joel Marklund, Alex Szmigiel – again, one of my friends from the athletics world, and also Cam Mackenzie from my home town: He does more cycling, mountain biking stuff, and I think his stuff is really great as well, but there are so many more out there that inspire me. I probably let a whole bunch off the list, I think it’s always good to see … You’ve got to be careful of comparison anxiety, I know that, but it’s also good to constantly see what other people are doing, because that does help you take yourself further, you know? So, yeah …
How would you describe the state of women’s sport in general, and how we can improve it globally?
Well, there definitely is a little bit of inequality, if you look around sport in general, but I do think we are on the rise, that we are actually doing things right, you know, to help improve that shift, and in the past, I definitely think, like ten years and stuffz, I was sixteen, and I do remember when I was sixteen, it wasn’t all to look up to, like especially my main sport when I was sixteen was football, and there wasn’t a lot I could look up to, but now things are changing, and where …
You know, there are definitely the popularity stage, there is a shift, but I mean, you look at the women’s football world cup, and you know, like how many people watched it, how packed the stadiums were, and as well, the hype around the women’s football world cup, was amazing! Like, they treated it, I felt like they treated it very close to the men’s world cup, in terms of hype, and you know, commercial promotion and all that stuff. Now, I think that is the best way that we can improve the view of women’s sports, and help us to bring the barriers, …
If we hype up the women as much as the men’s, then that just helps shift people’s perception on female athletes, pretty much…
And there were commercials around the football world cup that were amazing, there was one by Nike which was super-inspirational, and it really put the footballers on a pedestal and made them like heroes.
Now, I feel like that is a very powerful way that we can help shape female athletes as being powerful, and it’s also the sport being really enjoyable to watch, you know, those brands have so much power, they have so much money behind them, they have all this creativity, they can make really powerful pieces like that that can be shown worldwide, so …
I think that’s probably one of the best ways to improve it, as well, how we document women in media …
Now, as a sports photographer, when I photograph women, I always, you know: Strong, powerful, athletic! Talented, you know, just things that I would also shoot men, it’s actually the same way, that’s how I do it, you know.
And it’s just things like that that we talk about female athletes in the press, as well as the words we use, like using words like ‘strong’, and ‘powerful’, and you know, like ‘talented’, and like ‘fast’, and you know, like ‘triumphant’, real big good words, …
I am not a journalist, so, my words, figuring it out is not as good as someone else can be, but kind of using ways that describe female athletes, will help huge in, you know, changing the perception of how we view women’s sport.
And I do feel like we’re on the rise, and I do feel that we’re going to have a new era in women’s sport, I have been seeing this in other codes, I know cricket in Australia, they’ve got like, smashes of the week, something, and they have women and men’s highlights, they have like best shots of the weekend stuff, and they mix it up, and they hype them the same.
That’s the key, it’s like both hyped up the same. And then you start seeing, not, ‘Oh, that’s just a girl.’ No, that’s an athlete!
And so, that helps change the perception of that, I know World Athletics Day actually did a really good job, and when I look at all their content, they post based on performance. Right? It’s not gender, based on gender, hey don’t necessarily put a guy, it’s what performance is the best, you know?
And that makes me feel proud to be part of a sport like that, from the literal top, they are supporting this equality thing, so, yeah … I think we’re definitely on the rise, we’ve still got to keep pushing it, you know, keep showing women, you know, as strong, as powerful and everything, it’ll just help with the popularity, and showing on TV as well, and yeah, we’re on the way up, guys! (laughs).
What can the rest of the world learn about New Zealand and your promotion of women’s sport?
Well, yeah, New Zealand actually does a pretty good job of this! So, you know, like I’ve mentioned before, it’s got to start from the top. Now, our own government backs us. So, we have a whole new initiative, which is focussing on women in sports, like our government is actually invested in this as well, so that’s amazing to see how dedicated they are, from the top.
And then, not only that, there’s all the national bodies of sport, they need to support it too. So, if you don’t start at the top, it’s so hard, you know, to help from the bottom. Like, if the top is supporting it, it’s a lot easier for the rest of the chain to follow.
Uhm, like, we, so, we have the All Blacks and the Black Caps – they will always get prime spots. That’s just, that might not change for a while, and that’s kind of fine, because also our Silver Ferns, women’s netball team, they also get a whole lot of prime time spotlight.
So, like, All Blacks are probably like always going to be at the top. That’s just, you know, probably not going to change, but its the difference, it’s also how close the other sports, or other women sports, we do hype up Black Ferns, you know, which is awesome, the women’s rugby team – a lot! They’ll also sometimes play just before etc eAll Blacks, as well, so we are, New Zealand Rugby definitely are taking measure, and make the women’s sport just as popular as the men.
Now, that’s a, that’s a real big struggle, but also just like, just like the other sports as well. When the Olympic and Commonwealth Goes are one, a lot of time in news media, what i covered is actually based on performance. We have had plenty of women on the front cover of the newspaper, whether it’s positive or negative, either or (laughs), so we have actually had them on front covers based on performance, which is awesome.
And I actually, like, I actually took a quick Google before this, to see …, I just Googled: “Most popular New Zealand athletes at the Rio Olympics”, and the top five that came up on my screen, three of them were guys … Sorry, three of them were girls (laughs).
And the first one that was shown was Dame Valerie Adams, which is awesome. That’s what Google sprung up at me, I think it’s basing on what everyone else has been looking up, and I’ve noticed also in our advertisements and promotion of Olympics and Commonwealth Games, is very equal, you know. It’s not male-dominated at all, they are really equal, who’s been promoted, and stuff …
So, I think, yeah, it’s a good way to follow, New Zealand’s definitely like … I feel like we’re one of the leading countries when it comes to equality just in general as well as equality in sport, so I think other countries just take a look at what we’re doing from, you know, not only from the top, from all the national bodies and how you know, in broadcasting and in media, we hve a lot of like talk-back shows, whether it’s on radio or TV, the panel is mixed. It’s not all-mens’ panel, and it’s not all-women’s panel. There is a mix, which I think makes for way better television, because there’s a dynamic that goes on, as well, so that all helps, and it also helps us see women reporters out there, you know, like all women commentating, like it’s great to see them out there, because, ah, in New Zealand, it’s suddenly not much of a man’s game anymore, and I think that’s really awesome!
Who are your favourite sportswomen, and why?
So, obviously I’m going to kick this list of with one of my good friends, who is Eliza McCartney, who is an Olympic medalist and a Commonwealth Games medallist, and she’s also the fourth-best pole-vaulter of all time. Outdoors. Which is pretty incredible, and you know, she’s from my home town in New Zealand, and I think ..
But I think I’m not just being biased because she’s my friend, but I think she’s very inspiring in the way that she’s just so positive, you know, even when things get a bit sour, … You may not know, but back home everyone knows that she’s been struggling with injuries for the past year, forcing her to pull out of the world championships, but like, no matter what, she’s just a real positive person, and I think that’s really inspiring … And the other thing is, Eliza has fun out there. And you know, I’ve grown up to be like, if you’re not having fun, why are you doing it? So, that’s like, Eliza’s great like that, because she shows she’s out there to have fun. No matter the stage, she’s just out there to have fun, and I think that’s something you can take into everyday life, as well.
Next will have to be Dame Valerie Adams – if you don’t know here, Google her! You know, like, double-olympic champion, multiple world champion, if I listed all her titles, I might as well be introducing Daenerys Targaryen, … She an incredible athlete, but not only that, she is bloody hilarious. What I love about Val is, she keeps it real. You know, find her on social media, it is amazing. Whether she’s out there absolutely kicking but in the gym, or on the field, but also showing what it’s like to have two little kids! And what it’s like to be an elite athlete, you know, and a mom at the same time! And that’s just why I think she’s really inspiring, especially as a woman, she’s proof that you can have kids and still be out there, you know, doing sport and stuff, so, yeah … Val’s awesome, you know, she’s great!
And also, I would say, Sydney McLaughlin, who’s a 400m hurdler from the USA, she’s only 20, and she is already the second-best 400m hurdler of all time. Uhm, she’s also hilarious online (laughs) I’d say there’s a really good trend here (laughs) …
And then, another one would be Lolo Jones, who is a former American sprint-hurdler and bob-sledder, she is bloody hilarious on the Internet as well, so … I really like, … I do like the funny ones (laughs) you know, I do value humility and, and, keeping it real, and stuff, so here’s my fav’s (laughs).
What’s your advice for aspiring women in sports media?
I would say, just “Get out there!” You know, and use what you already have. Like, are you already involved in the sport, you know, not necessarily an athlete, but an official, or a coach, or your kid is in the sport.
You know, just get out there and use that connection. That’s what I did, and it’s good to start with a sport you already know. Because, the thing with sports photography, you have to anticipate what’s going to happen, to a point, you know, that’s how you almost read the action, to get those photos, is being proactive rather than reactive. Same as sport.
So, start with a sport you already know, and once you get really good at shooting that sport, you can almost take those fundamentals to other sports, and you’ll find that, after a while, even if you haven’t shot the sport before, you watch from the warmup, and you can kind of still shoot it, because you already know the fundamentals of the other sport, that you have shot in the past.
And then, you know, just start from there, network, talk to people, ask them if you can shoot this event, don’t be afraid to start for free, because that’ s also like a good foot in the door in the future, and talk to other professional photographers, reach out to them on social media, you know, networking is your friend, and just get out there and keep shooting.
Just keep shooting. it’s exactly like sport, you have to train, so, keep getting out there, keep shooting, just like low-key games, or, if it’s bigger stuff, just keep shooting, keep your eye in the game, you know, that’s probably just the best advice I can give, just keep going, don’t get stale!
So, how are you coping during this lockdown?
(Finger gestures to wait a moment). This is how I’m coping during this lockdown. (Opens bottle of wine, takes a sip, and smiles).
No, seriously! Apart from drinking wine, because, what else must I do, I have been, you know, I’ve actually been out there photographing birds in my back yard, …
Actually, it’s right here on the couch, sitting here ready, is, I have a 5D Mark IV setup, 1.4 converter, and a 300-hundred, ready to go, because, you know, in case a cool bird pops up in my back yard!
So, that’s what I’ve been doing, that’s why I’ve been shooting leaves, stuff like that, I do have a little design work to work on, now, you know I talk about the graphic design degree, I do graphic design for my governing body for my sport, which is awesome, so, I still have a little bit of work for them to do, uhm…
Other than that, I’ve been reading, eating, drawing …
Drawing, yeah, so I still try hard to keep that up, it helps my creative muscles tick along, uhm … What else have I been doing? Yeah, eating …, working on my,
Ok, I’v been working on my website, which is something that I’ve neglected, because I’m slack.
So, keep posted, there is a new website, almost done, by the time this video is presented, it could be done already, and, yeah, that’s how I’m coping, it’s alright, you know, it’s not like we’re going to war, we just have to stay home, we can get through this, and it’s fine, so, that’s how I’m going through this lockdown. Cheers!
Ah, what have you learned about yourself during this time?
Ah, I’m just going to wine off for now, since I bought it (shrugs)
I’ve learned I’m a human. You know… I can’t go a hundred miles an hour, like, all the time … You know, especially at times like this when it is stressful, and so, honestly, this lockdown probably came at a really good time, I was super busy, just so much work on, I was just coming off our domestic athletics season, which is always busy, and I had a whole bunch of other work on, and I was …, oh, you know, when you’re on the edge, of maybe burning out, and you just surviving on coffee in the morning, you know, glass of wine in the afternoon, you know, just getting it through and getting it done, and then this lockdown happened.
It was almost, like, I don’t want to say a blessing, but it was forced break, you know … The thing, when you’ve to control the controllables, the things you can’t control, you’ve just got to leave.
Now, instead of getting sad, because, you know, I lost my work! (laughs) … because of coronavirus, I was like, hey, this is a good time to have a forced break, to recharge, you know, to do things like work on may website, to read a book, to draw, you know … like, take pictures of birds in my backyard, you know, really using this time for myself, because that’s something I can control!
And it’s ok to sit and watch Netflix all day, that’s ok too! Cause this is a time that no-one knows how to deal with, no-one knows what to expect, no-one’s given us advice on how to handle this. So, it’s ok, you know, we’re all human, and something I’ve learned, I’m also human! We’re all human, and we just need to treat ourselves, you know, like humans!
Ah, photograph the Olympic Games. In my sports photography career, that is an absolute dream. I actually have an accreditation to photograph the Tokyo Olympic Games, (sighs) so I was pretty close to achieving that ultimate dream, but, it’s ok – I can wait a year, it’s all right, so … Yeah! If anyone’s out there, yeah – I’ll see you there!
Image Gallery Captions:
Gallery Image 1 Caption: Eliza McCartney, an Olympic medalist and a Commonwealth Games medallist, and favourite athlete of Alisha Lovrich. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 2 Caption: The world-renown Kingston, Jamaica track and field sprinter, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, OD. Lovrich quotes her friend and colleague, distinguished track and field photographer Jeff Cohen: “”Look to see what no-one else is shooting!” Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 3 Caption: Dame Valerie Kasanita Adams DNZM, the iconic New Zealand shot putter, a four-time World champion, four-time World Indoor champion, two-time Olympic, three-time Commonwealth Games champion and twice IAAF Continental Cup winner. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 4 Caption: Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech pictured being congratulated by the USA’s Emma Coburn, the moment snapped by Alisha Lovrich after the Kenyan set a new the women’s 3000m steeplechase Athletics World Championship record, in Soho 2019. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 5 Caption: A pole-vaulting athlete herself, Alisha Lovrich emphasises the importance for sports photographers to start shooting sports they know well, owing to the quality of anticipation being a key advantage for the profession. Here she catches French pole vaulter Ninon Guillon-Romarin at height of her endeavours. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 6 Caption: A dramatic pose by Shaunae Miller-Uibo in calm concentration ahead of the 400m event, at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 7 Caption: Lovrich rates athletics as her favourite sporting code to shoot, saying: “There is just so much variety you can capture at an athletics event, you know, you’ve got so many different events, running, jumping, throwing, to many opportunities to create really cool images!” Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 8 Caption: USA pole vaulter Sandi Morris lives a moment of success at 4.90m, eventually finishing second to Russia’s Anzhelika Sidorova, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in 2019. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Gallery Image 9 Caption: New Zealand shot put champion Dame Valerie Adams ranks highly in Alisha Lovrich’s estimation. Photo: Alisha Lovrich Photography
Photo 1 caption: