Back in 1996 myself and Fiona had a book published called ‘The Road to Glory’ – A Portrait of Britain’s Paralympians.
I love sport and couldn’t understand why Tanni Grey, (now Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE) who had come back from the Barcelona Paralympics with four Gold medals, wasn’t plastered all over the back pages of the red tops wearing a Union Jack flag. In fact not many people had even heard of her or the other Paralympians, so in our own way we thought we would try to help to remedy this.
We started taking portraits and action shots of the athletes from all the different disciplines within the Paralympics and eventually had the book published by Quiller Press.
It is a great book, designed by the brilliant Debra Dempster and Steve Gardiner, but wasn’t a bestseller! Black and white portraits of Paralympians has quite a niche audience, so I guess it was never going to fly off the bookshelves! 🙂
But, the portrait of Tanni (who by the way is one of the loveliest people you could ever meet!) and also one of Chris Hallam was included in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition of 1998 called ‘British Sporting Heroes’. It was quite a treat to see the portrait of Tanni hanging next to one of Ian Botham.
Many of the images have been featured in magazines and books including a great book published by Umbrage Editions called ‘Raising The Bar’ – New Horizons in Disability Sport.
We took the book out to Atlanta games, where for the first time they charged for tickets. It was a good idea, but didn’t quite work when you had 70’000 seat stadiums with only about 10-15’000 people in them. We were lucky enough to be in Australia when the Paralympics were on over there and they had learnt the lesson. They bussed in school kids from all over, there was free entry and the stadiums were packed, very noisy and with a great atmosphere.
Fast forward to 2012, when we were fortunate to get tickets to the Paralympics in London. You had to pay for a ticket and they were hard to get, stadiums were packed, the atmosphere was electric and our Paralympic athletes were hailed as true sports stars!
The reason I mention all of this is because I am still in touch with a couple of the athletes from the original book. Kevin Davids, the swashbuckling chap below, decided he would become an actor when he left the world of Paralympics, so he got in touch with me to ask if I would take a few shots of him for his model agency, which of course I gladly did. You can now see him on Coronation Street and in other TV shows. The agency he joined was called VisAble and is just for people with a disability of some sort or another. Every so often, Louise who runs the agency, points her clients in my direction and it has been great fun, not just taking their ‘headshots’, but also collaborating with them to make some powerful portraits. The shots below are of Andy McLay, Actor, Director and writer.
A few images from our book ‘The Road to Glory’.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson