FPA Member Profile

Andrew Cowie – Colorsport
All Images © Andrew Cowie / Colorsport

Career

Highlights

  • 1971 – 1972 An agency that took photographs for advertisements for the Underground etc
  • 1972 – Colorsport
  • FIFA World cups since 1974
  • UEFA Euro Champs Tournaments
  • UEFA Champions League Finals
  • FA Cup Finals Since 1975
Q&A with Andrew Cowie

What came first, sport or photography?
“Sport. I had trials with Chelsea and Crystal Palace, but was never going to make the grade. Did well in others sports, but my ‘Box Brownie’ won over, so when a job vacancy came up at Colorsport for a trainee in 1972, I think my knowledge of Sport – and art A Level, may have got me the job into their darkroom . The rest is history.”

Who did you look up to when you were young, and who has helped you most with your development?
“Colorsport Partners, Colin Elsey, and Stewart Fraser – along with Mike Wall – had completely different styles, which I think helped me develop from the darkroom upwards.

Chris Smith of the Sunday Times was a master of black and white and manual focus, but it was the New Zealand All Black photographer, Peter Bush whose unorthodox approach to taking pictures – throwing everything I had ever learned up to that point – out of the window. He is the only photographer I know who has adapted his game from glass plates to present day.”

One change for the better to improve football photography for the next generation of photographers?
“Being allowed to express oneself without the modern day restrictions… Unfortunately money talks, with advertising boards and the desire to add more seats in areas where photographers would normally have sat don’t help. So more consultation with clubs will become essential, but always try to make the best of what is handed to you.

If it’s any consolation, we had the same problems in the 1970’s. Because of fans watching below ground level we had to lie on our stomachs behind the goals at The Kop, Liverpool and Derby County. Trying to hand hold a 400mm lens was not a nice experience on a wet day.”

Favourite ground to work at and why?
“Ipswich Town was a great little ground to work at in the 1970’s and had the best floodlights… Especially useful when your colour film speed was only 200 ASA for a night game!”

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“On route to Old Trafford in 1999, I stopped off in Dudley to find a church that had a glass window dedicated to the great Duncan Edwards who died in the Munich air crash. With the church locked and me about to leave two coaches pulled up with pensioners for the parish hall. After smooth talking my way in, they sent a search party to find a key for the church. They did me proud, and after taking the photos I was just about to leave, until the group leader asked me if I could repay them as their bingo caller hadn’t turned up.

How could I not?! An hour later and now seriously late for my European Cup game, I scraped in just before kick off, only to find half a box of broken eggs in my camera bag that the old girls had given me as a thank you.

It is always good to know you have another profession to fall back on, if ever it all goes pear shaped… Fast forward to 2020?”

Favourite footballer to work with and why?
“After Lawrie Sanchez scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool I went to do a feature on him in his new cottage with his wife. For some reason we ended up in the loft and while up there I lost my footing and my foot went through the ceiling below. He laughed it off, saying it all had to come down anyway. A very laid back guy, who was a lot less ‘crazy’ than the rest of his gang at Wimbledon.”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?
“Nikon.”

First match photographed?
“1972 / 1973 Arsenal v Chelsea. FA Cup 1/4 Final Replay at Highbury. Ironic it should be Arsenal, as I would become their club photographer with Colorsport 20 years later.”

If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
“I always enjoyed art and woodwork, so something along those lines. Failing that I was pretty good at bingo calling!”

Best advice for youngsters?
“Always push yourself and give yourself challenges for each game. Do your homework before the match, there is always something of interest out there that you hadn’t realised.

I quickly found out that I had to be mentally and physically stronger in the early days. After doing my first England international against Poland in 1973 and processing numerous rolls of film after the match, printing over 200 prints with captions and finally taking them by car to the airport before first light the next day. This was a massive wake up call, finding out just what was expected of me. Times have changed, but staying mentally and physically strong helps you react faster to situations on the pitch.”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“To use your gut instinct. Apart from being stuck on the motorway with my old friend, Mark Leech for over four hours on route to the 1989 Championship decider at Anfield, sticking it out was one of the best decisions I ever made.

All was not going to plan, and my ‘gut instinct’ told me I had to move position. I made my move from in front of The Kop with 20 minutes to go and walked up the other end, having to take a lot of fan abuse. Arsenal turned it around and got the two goals needed to win the first Division title.

Lesson: don’t be afraid to change your position. It’s too easy to stay seated at a corner flag and watch the game drift away from you.”

Company Social Media
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