Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Grand National Meeting

The photo above shows jockey Jason Maguire raising an arm in triumph as he passes the winning post on his horse Ballabriggs to secure a thrilling victory in the 2011 Grand National at Aintree.

I spent three days covering the Grand National meeting at the Liverpool course. From Liverpool Day on the Thursday, to the exotic colours and sights of Ladies Day on the Friday to the Grand National Day itself on Saturday, I joined the masses in a celebration of a great British tradition, one which has the nation glued to the telly, possibly indulging in their only bet of the year.

I was very pleased with the images I managed to get from the three day festival of jump racing: I thought they reflected the event well, were interesting, informative and maybe a little different from some of the other racing photos you see.

Tired, but happy, I made my way home through crowds of inebriated race-goers on Saturday evening, pleased to have captured in good detail the the final moments of the big race, the elation of jockey and owner, the cheering crowds, the elated and deflated punters.

So here's the rub. When working to deadline, head down in an atmosphere bordering on the frenetic, concentrating on your photographs and the story in front of you, you quite often miss the bigger picture. And the bigger picture was the story that emerged and lead the news in the wake of Grand National Day: Two horses dead, a jockey in a coma and the winning jockey banned for excessive use of his whip as he powered his way to victory on the home strait, prompting calls for the race to be banned and people flooding phone-ins with counter points of view.

I was, therefore, a little disappointed that I could not have communicated this aspect of the story. But the rules are strict when covering horse racing: no photography 'behind the screens' as it's called. Which means you won't see the dead or dying, the critically injured, the doctors, ambulances or vets. You'll see a sanitised version of events. But you'll hear a different story.

Made me think.

Here is a small selection of the work I did over those three days: http://colinmcpherson.photoshelter.com/

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