My Heroes

On this page I should like to pay tribute to the colleagues and friends who have continually inspired and helped me throughout my career. I’m at the stage in life where I can look back and see my working life as a whole and I have become aware of just how much I owe to people along the way. I intend to update this page fairly regularly and concentrate on one or two each time I write, giving links to anything that may be of interest.

My first heroes have already been mentioned in my first posting, which is a good indication of the important place they occupy in my life.

1. TED GRANT is arguably Canada’s greatest living photographer. Now aged 80 years old, his career spans almost 60 years in which time he has photographed just about every aspect of Canadian life, worked intensively in sports photography and  has also done some wonderful work in medical photography much of which has featured in his books ‘This is our work – the legacy of Sir William Osler’ and ‘Women in Medicine’. He has also published a book available through Blurb – ‘Real Photographers shoot black and white. Sometimes colour’.

Canadian Television recently did an excellent documentary about Ted’s life and work and a dvd is available (The Art of Observation), which is a must see for anyone interested in photography. Ted’s great passion for his work comes shining through and for me it brings back many great memories of working alongside him at major events and Olympic Games. I have always loved his good humour and his willingness to advise and help and in many ways I have tried to follow his example. These two quotes sum up Ted the photographer:-

“I try to work as the invisible man and not be part of the story I am documenting”

and

“Every photograph has content but it’s the eye of the photographer which selects the content that makes the difference between a great one and a mediocre one”.

Ted’s website is http://www.tedgrant photo.com

2. I always think of DWIGHT NORMILE as the ‘Quiet American’. He has been a friend and colleague since the early eighties when he first became editor of International Gymnast magazine (undoubtedly the foremost magazine of its kind in the world). Dwight was a gymnast and a coach in his early days, went on to train in Graphic Art and Design and brought all these skills, knowledge and experience to bear on his work for the magazine. I was honoured and indebted to him when he agreed to be the designer for the two books I produced for the FIG (‘Gymnastics – The Art of Sport’ and ‘Gymnastics in Perspective’). Working alongside him on these projects I learned so much about design and about how to make images sit together on a page so that one complemented the other. I’m ashamed to admit that I pressured him into using too many images in the first of these books and I can always remember him saying to me “Less is more, Eileen!”. I learned my lesson and backed off for our second book; the only excuse I can offer is that creating a book is a wonderful opportunity for a photographer to feature his or her best photography and it all tends to go to your head. Dwight’s intelligent, quiet, thoughtful approach partnered with his integrity have resulted in one of the most talented yet modest people with whom I have worked. A dedicated family man, Dwight has brought up his children in a supportive, loving and thoughtful way and brings these same qualities to his friendships.

3. It’s not uncommon to find inspiration from fellow colleagues in any job or profession; these are the people you admire and learn from and too often we never get the chance to acknowledge them. I’m happy to pay tribute to some of the great photographers I have worked with over a 30 year period.

When I first started shooting Gymnastics, I was completely knocked out by the work of ALAN BURROWS – someone like me with a background and knowledge of the sport and who captured the kind of action I looked for. Although Alan stopped working in the sport regularly a number of years ago, I still look at his work with admiration and respect.

BOB MARTIN is another British photographer (former All Sport stalwart and multi ward winner) whose work never ceases to stun and amaze me. Quite apart from admiring his technical skills I am always truly impressed by his ability to visualize an image and then create it; he works in many different sports and always comes up with the definitive image from that particular event or competition. His work can be seen at http://www.bobmartin.com.

Another equally talented and inspiring photographer is my American colleague Dave Black; we have worked in a similar areas (mainly Gymnastics and Figure Skating) but Dave’s work has featured extensively in exalted publications such as Sports Illustrated and National Geographic and he has done a great deal of work for and with Nikon. You can view his website at  http://www.daveblackphotography.com.

Sometimes when you shoot a sport regularly you can get stuck in a rut of shooting the same things in the same way and it’s necessary to keep challenging yourself to keep your work fresh and innovative. This is a lesson I learned from TIM CLAYTON, a British photographer who went out to work in Australia a number of years ago and who was working for the Sydney Morning Herald when I met him at a world championships in Brisbane. I was so impressed with the images that the paper published and with his way of seeing the sport from a different viewpoint. It made me reassess the way I worked and I’ve always been grateful to him for another lesson learned.

In a world where many photographers talk a good picture it is possible to overlook the quiet, unassuming ones and they don’t always receive the recognition they deserve. Such a one is ANDREW (Andy) COWIE who has worked for Colorsport all the years I have known him. I first appreciated his talent when I was editing images in an Olympic press centre and he was doing a similar job on the lightbox next to mine. We’d both shot the same event but his images had a quality and an edge to them that made me want to look out for his work in the future. I came to admire his calm and even manner when working under pressure and his ability to come up with the goods regardless of these.

I have huge admiration and respect for CHRIS SMITH and knew his work through his images in the Sunday Times before I came to meet him and work alongside him at events. Chris always set the pace with his outstanding work and could be guaranteed to  come up with an iconic image of any given event, leaving the rest of us trailing in his wake. Not only is he a very skilled, imaginative and creative photographer, he is also one of the nicest people you could wish to meet – always friendly, helpful and a great colleague. There were times when I struggled a bit with some of my Fleet Street colleagues who could be less than welcoming to a female sports photographer in their midst but Chris was always kind and accepting. As the years have gone by, my respect and admiration for him has just increased.

Through another work contact I came to meet Mike Ford and became a great fan of his creative and innovative style of work. He has remained a good friend and you can view his photography at his website http://www.fabpictures.com

Being one of the first women to work in sports photography, I’ve always had empathy for others who are trying to make their way in a man’s world and very early in my career I found it a relief to meet other women who were experiencing the same kind of things. These women tended to come from other countries and it was quite a while before I found fellow British women to talk to and work with. Surprisingly the lack of a common language was less of a barrier than you might imagine; shared experiences provided the opportunity for communication and in time a number became lifelong friends.

My first such colleague and friend was  MAJA MORITZ who was a partner in the Bongarts Agency based in Hamburg, Germany. Maja has a truly creative mind with good design skills and bringing these talents to her shooting of sports events made for really impressive and original images.

My Japanese friend RIMAKO TAKEUCHI approached me when I was working at a world Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships and in broken English made it clear that she too wanted to work in the same way as me. We stayed in touch and were destined to meet many times, mostly at Rhythmic Gymnastics events where her photography outshone just about any one else’s work. Breaking into a man’s world in Japan was a very tough challenge for her and it upset me a lot to see younger, less experienced and talented men promoted ahead of her but she stuck with it and is now finally getting the recognition and accolades her work deserves.

4. Sometimes in life you meet people who have an incredible capacity for work and who go about it with spirit and enthusiasm, inspiring others as they do so. Such a one is Mike Tette (formerly of Kodak), who when I first met him was Manager of the Olympic Photographic Press Centre and in overall charge of the vast film processing operation that was provided for us. I first met him in 1988 at the Calgary Winter Olympic Games. Not only was he one of the first staff on duty and the last to leave but he was always cheerful (even under extreme pressure), supportive and always interested in the work of the photographers covering the Games and the challenges they faced. Mike rose up the ranks in Kodak and ultimately  took on an impressive job heading up marketing and advertising issues for the Games as well as organising photographic services. Thanks to him my first book ‘Gymnastics – The Art of Sport’ received sponsorship from Kodak without which it would not have been published. I shall always remember Mike for his good humour, the support he showed to his staff and his willingness to be there when needed.

Another such one is my dear friend Vera Atkinson (formerly Marinova). I first met Vera at the Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games in 1984 when we were both freezing to death at the Speed Skating event (outdoors) and where she was working as Bulgarian Television’s foremost commentator. Over the years we have met each other at many different sports events both of us working in our different capacities and I am always so impressed with her commitment to her work and her ability to inspire others. A former World Champion Rhythmic Gymnast herself, Vera has an encyclopaedic knowledge of sport and her contribution to the role of women working in the sports media has been recognised by none other than the International Olympic Committee. She is now the head of media operations at British Gymnastics and has brought all her considerable experience and expertise to that role. A wonderful wife and mother she has become a dear and valued friend and colleague.

5. Throughout my life I have been inspired by many people and looking back I can see that some have significantly influenced the course of my life. It’s likely that I should never have developed my interest in sport had it not been for Joy Alexander, my PE teacher at secondary school. It was through her enthusiasm and belief in the value of sport that I came to be a participant first of all and then ultimately a teacher. Years later when I was working as an assistant photo manager at the Commonwealth Games and responsible for leading a team of volunteers that I came to realise that the skills needed here had been learned many years before when Joy had shown me the way to be a good team player and an effective School Games Captain and how it was possible to lead and inspire others. So many of the values that I learned during my school days now seem to be viewed as old fashioned and irrelevant but all I can say is that they have guided me through life and that without Joy’s input I should probably never followed the path I have taken.

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Responses

  1. Hi,

    I found your website while trying to research help for shooting girls youth gymnastics meet. Trying to help a friend shoot his daughter at these meets, but I am very much a beginning student in photography.

    I love your images! and I love your blog; you are both generous in your discussions and fascinating to to read. Thanks so much for the information you share, especially about your experiences and influences throughout your life. Very inspiring to read about your many years of hard work, your dedication and your passion for creating images. I look forward to more.

  2. Hi Laura, Many thanks for your kind words – they are much appreciated. I’m working away at the moment so not able to follow up but if you want to contact me anytime for any help, let me know.
    Eileen L

  3. Eileen, glad to see you are still taking great photos. I worked at Lloyds in Chesterfield in the 1980’s, upstairs for most of the time, so remember you coming in, either off to some far flung part of the world or just back !!. found a copy of the Women Sports Photographers booklet and it prompted me to google you. Kind regards, Colin Nock

  4. Dear Mrs Langsley, you taught me at King Edwards school many years ago. I just wanted to say congratulations on your success. Your photographs are wonderful. Sonia

  5. Hi Sonia, What a nice message and good of you to remember me. Let me know what years you were there – and your surname…Eileen

  6. Hi Mrs Langsley my surname was Wilson and I went to King Edwards from 1970 -75. My main sport was athletics – shot put, discus and pentathlon. I also did cross country, netball and rounders. Up until very recently I was a sprints coach at a club in London. After many years working as an administrator I was lucky enough to give up work for a few years so I retrained in the fitness industry. It’s never too late!

    I don’t know if it was you who nominated me for an award at school called the Whitely Cup? I had actually left school and had to return in September 75 to receive it. Strangely enough no -one can seem to remember it on the KES Old Edwardians website! Hope you remember me. Best wishes. Sonia

  7. Sorry for the delay in replying Sonia, I’ve been working away. I think it was me that nominated you for the Whiteley Cup. I’m still in touch with a number of girls I used to teach; I’m not sure which ones would be your contemporaries though. Great to hear you passed your enthusiasm on to young athletes and I know you’ll be looking forward to the Games. It will the 13th Olympics I’ve covered (!) and almost certainly the last one I shall do but quite a treat to have it on home soil.
    All the best, Eileen


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