FPA Member Profile

Kieran Cleeves – Associate Member
All Images © Kieran Cleeves
Q&A with Kieran Cleeves

What came first, sport or photography?
“Sport definitely came first in my life. My dad took me to my first Brighton & Hove Albion match at the age of one, and I’ve owned a season ticket since 1999. I always loved travelling around the country visiting new football grounds, and the whole match-day experience was the best part of any week. After graduating from university, I managed to work my way into a media role at Brighton, and that is where I began to realise my passion for sports photography.”

First match photographed?
“My first professional match was the Premier League meeting between Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton & Hove Albion at Wembley Stadium in December 2017. It was an incredible experience and I felt extremely fortunate to be photographing my first game at such a famous venue, but also in the world’s biggest domestic league. It was the first time I swapped the press box for pitch-side, and from then on I knew it was where I wanted to be.”

Favourite ground and why?
“I really enjoy covering games at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, due to the clean backgrounds and overall match-day experience. However, shooting at places like Fratton Park is always interesting, as the old-fashioned grounds provide different opportunities for unique, old-school photos.”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?
“I’ve always used Canon equipment. I was delighted to be invited to a Canon event for Young Sports Photographers in Manchester in January 2020, and have since been supported by Canon’s Young Sports Photographer Initiative. Jakki Moores at Canon has been incredibly helpful, and she’s regularly at the end of the phone providing advice and support.”

Favourite match or football related event photographed?
“In November 2018 I was sent to Wembley Stadium by Brighton to photograph Lewis Dunk’s England debut against USA, however it was also Wayne Rooney’s final cap for his country. It was my first international match and felt like a proud moment in my career. I also travelled to Boston, USA in March 2019 for a week to photograph a Premier League event – that was a lot of fun and involved taking photos court-side at an NBA game.”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“It’s so important to experiment across various photography genres to improve your understanding of your camera’s capabilities, lighting, composition, etc. You can learn something new every single day, no matter how big or small, and it all goes towards making you a better photographer.”

Which photo included in your FPA gallery are you proudest of and why?
“Some of my other photos perhaps hold more importance to me personally, but the photograph of the Tottenham v RB Leipzig match is certainly one I’m proud of, as it was my first time photographing a Champions League game and it’s a unique photo in respect to the body shapes of both players competing for the ball whilst in the air.”

Any funny or interesting experiences photographing football at any level?
“After deciding to leave Brighton to fully focus on pursuing a career as a sports photographer, I covered an FA Cup match between Walsall and Darlington. I had one camera body, two lenses and no protective covers for any of my equipment. It hammered down with rain and I was down the wrong end for the first three goals. But in the seventh minute of stoppage time Darlington scored right in front of me and the goalscorer ran straight towards me. On Monday morning I had my first ever publication in a national newspaper, and I’ll never forget that feeling. I also made sure the rain wouldn’t catch me out again and bought covers for my equipment. It was certainly a learning curve, but a memory I’ll always treasure.”

How did you feel just before you photographed your first match professionally?
“I was extremely excited to be photographing a Premier League match at Wembley Stadium. I took a minute to look at my surroundings before the match and appreciate the moment.”

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