1/1000 is not only the optimal shutter speed used in sports & action photography but also the name of our interview series with sports photographers, who play a big part in the roller derby community. They eternalize great moments in this great sport, catch our best derp faces and often also skate themselves. Like our third interviewee in this series: Jürgen Ziegler.
Hello Jürgen, please introduce yourself.
I am from Heidelberg, Germany and I’ve been shooting roller derby since 2014. I am a league member of the Rhein-Neckar DeltaQuads (still don’t have my MST, lazy bastard that I am). The first question most people ask is, “Are you a (professional) photographer?” The answer is always, “Luckily no, I have a daytime job that allows me to do derby photography.”
How did you end up a photographer and roller derby photographer?
I grew up in a different era. I come from an analog background, from Instamatic and pocket cameras (Type 110). I bought my first Canon in the eighties (1984 Olympics in LA special edition) which I still own. It started with landscapes and later documentaries in school (study group). Things changed and some Autofocus cameras came out. Later, we all switched to digital and I took pictures of e.g. my friends' weddings along with landscapes.
My way into roller derby photography came with me being a fan of Ellen Page. So I had to stumble upon “Whip it” at some point. I looked on the internet and found the RocKArollers Karlsruhe and bought a ticket. One or two days later, I found out that a team had formed in my area, my beloved Rhein-Neckar Delta Quads. They were participating in a local event where associations can present themselves along the Neckar River. I put on a more-or-less professional camera vest and asked if I could take some pictures. By coincidence I spoke with the then press contact. Everyone saw me and thought that Media had spoken to me in advance. That was the start. Without knowing anything besides the film.
We spoke with Jürgen back in November, when he had just returned from the European Continental Cup in Birmingham, where he was the team photographer of Dublin Roller Derby.
You have just recently returned from the Continental Cup. Can you tell us more about that experience?
Being a team photographer is a privilege. And to shoot for Dublin Roller Derby was an outstanding experience. I mean, they perhaps had a weird moment when a more or less random German dude asked if they had a team photog for the ECC. But I guess they looked up my work from Germany and from the World Cup and thought it was convincing. Photographers who are shooting for a team for a long time usually also shoot practice and other “backstage” pictures. In my case, I was a little more distant. At least for the first 1 or 2 games. Once the team gets used to the photographer it’s fine. I didn’t want to interfere with their timetable and everybody was super busy. So I did not ask for more than shooting the games. The work afterwards was really great. They are one of the best organized and most responsive teams I have ever worked with. Now I have a standing invitation to Dublin which I intend to accept. I have never been to Dublin or even Ireland, so it’s about time.
This was not your first tournament in 2018. You started the year off with the World Cup in Manchester in January. How was shooting your first international tournament? Was it what you had always dreamed of?
If you mean nightmares then yes, I had them. It all started when I wanted to visit the World Cup. At that point Team Germany already had a team photographer. I had not seen any post looking for one before the World Cup. So I thought about bringing a smaller camera. I knew that at some events you are not allowed to shoot with “professional” cameras, whatever that is. Better safe than sorry and I applied for an audience only accreditation. Not soon afterwards NSP189 sent me a message saying “…as I see the quality and level of your derby shooting experience, I wonder if you don’t prefer to join the Event Shooters Crew and have more access than from the audience area.” I thought about it, asked around a bit and 4 ½ hours later I agreed. A friend said “What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t bring (back) any pictures! But we both know that is not going to happen”
But to be honest it was the hardest I ever worked in my spare time. The first day with its 30 minute games was back-breaking hard. And I was not at all prepared for the work afterwards parallel to my job. And it came how it had to come, I got in a rut, got a photog burnout and wasn’t able to pick up a camera for many weeks. But I recovered and learned from it. I changed my workflow to be faster. And for the ECC I had the week off after the event. Luckily, Vinciane Pierart (NSP189) and Marko Niemelä were the absolute best head photogs anyone could ask for. I felt safe and well taken care of. My personal highlight was the photog t-shirt, the special photog patch (which is super rare) and that we got some pages inside the RDWC program. I hope the next World Cup is not too far away because I would like to shoot Team Germany at the next World Cup.
The European Continental Cup was your first WFTDA tournament. How do non-WFTDA events and WFTDA events differ when it comes to photographer policy?
I heard many spooky things beforehand. About e.g. “nannying” photogs too much. About not allowing team photogs to shoot more than their team. About limiting them to a small area on one side of the track, etc, etc. I was expecting a harsh regiment. Besides, the WFTDA photog rules are far from optimal. As a consequence, very few apply as WFTDA contracted photographers. We are talking about 2 days of work on track and quite some time afterwards. I guess around 30 hours all in all including travel and hotel. I signed a WFTDA waiver with like 13 paragraphs and almost 2 pages. Well, it seems in Europe people are more relaxed and I couldn’t have been happier with these two days. It was a bit like any other two-day tournament but with more BBC.
What do you consider a perfect shot? Can you share a perfect shot you took and tell us more about it?
I don’t think there is a “perfect” picture. For me, a good shot contains action, emotions and, if possible, something the roller derby players can relate to. I once posted such a picture and in the comments the players were talking about the situation. Something like “That was what I was talking about earlier…” and then a little discussion took place.
I had quite a few of these at the ECC 2018. One example is the following from the Blitz Dames vs Dock City game. A nice clean hit and a team member of the blocker yelling something at them. I also love it when blockers get appreciation and not only the jammers.
What do you want the roller derby world to understand about roller derby photographers?
There are many good photographers out there. Especially the regular ones; we dedicate our hearts and souls to your sport. You are family to us. Our biggest pile of work starts when the venue has gone quiet. We skip after parties. We drive alone through the night. We work on derby pictures after a full working day. And we do not moan about it because we love what we do and what you do. So next time you see a photog, give us a smile or wave to us. Let us take a picture of you and your family. And if you are unsure whether you like a picture or not, tell us. Every photog I know will remove these without arguing. Or we will start Photoshop and get rid of the object in question. (Like those fab leggings you bought. Unfortunately they are little more than a black veil for the camera.)