One way or another I have been involved in Sport most of my life, starting out as an enthusiastic participant in a wide range of sports when I was a child then going on to train as a teacher of Physical Education. My teaching career spanned 15 years and my lasting memory of working with children and teenagers is of their potential to achieve great things.
My department worked to involve girls of all levels of ability and to offer activities that would appeal across the range, so contemporary dance was on the agenda as well as Gymnastics and all the traditional sports. Many girls achieved success at national level in a number of sports and I decided to photograph them at major events in the hope of gaining some publicity for them in local newspapers. This was a time (1965 – 1980) when sport for girls and women was off the agenda of most newspapers and this in turn restricted the opportunities and sponsorship that was available. I also used the images for coaching and display purposes and though I had no background in photography, with the help of my husband I was soon processing, printing and learning all the technical skills needed. Promoting sport for girls and women would go on to be a key factor of my photographic career and it was also instrumental in my early involvement of the establishment of the Women’s Sports Foundation in the UK.
After a while it became obvious that I could not sustain my commitments in teaching and the increasing work I was doing as a sports photographer so in 1980 I set up my agency Supersport Photographs and embarked on a career at a time when there were few if any women working full time in this profession.
Needless to say, the response to me was not always a positive one and I clearly remember being told by one agency that a woman would not know enough about sport to be any use to them. However this was a little more positive than a Spanish photographer who told me that a woman’s place was in the kitchen! I did feel something of a pioneer in those days and it was really great after a couple of years to meet women from other countries who were trying to do the same thing and in due course we set up the International Association of Women Sports Photographers, to promote our work and support each other. Thanks to sponsorship from Kodak we published a glossy brochure which helped raise our profile.
To the present date I have covered 11 Olympic Games (Winter and Summer) and hope to achieve the round dozen in Vancouver next year.
In addition I have covered World, European and National Championships in a wide range of sports. My specialist areas became Gymnastics, Figure Skating and all sports for women and girls. I became the official photographer of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in 1983 and worked for them until 2002 during which time I not only photographed all their events but was also involved in organisational work establishing good working conditions for photographers and liaising with TV and event organisers. I was made an Honorary Life member of both the FIG and British Gymnastics. During my time with the FIG I had the great challenge and thrill of producing two photographic books – ‘Gymnastics – The Art of Sport’ and ‘Gymnastics in Perspective’ – and it was a great learning experience for me to work with Dwight Normile (editor of International Gymnast magazine) who designed and structured these publications.
Rather to my surprise I was elected Chairman of the Professional Sports Photographers Association (PSPA) in the UK and during this time served on the press committee of the British Olympic Association. I also continued to support the Women’s Sports Foundation (UK) by being their photographer and advising on press initiatives, including the launch of an Awards Scheme for girls and young women. It was very satisfying some years later to see sportswomen who had been award winners in this scheme competing at the Olympic Games.
In 2010 I was gratified and proud to be given the International Award of Merit by the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame (in Oklahoma, USA), for my services to the sport of Gymnastics.
In spite of recent time out due to health problems, I continue to build my archive and supply images to magazines and books but I have also started producing my own photographic greeting cards and calendars which I now sell through my website www.langsleysports.com.
I have had a truly wonderful career, full of challenges and new experiences during which I have been present at some great sporting events. I have travelled extensively, worked in many countries and cultures and am blessed with great friends and colleagues all over the world but my biggest tribute is as always to my husband Gerry who has been a real support to me every step of the way and who took this image of me when we were on holiday in The Seychelles.
My message to any girl or young woman out there who wants to follow a similar path in life is this – believe in yourself, forget about success, start at the beginning, work hard and the results will follow.