FPA Member Profile

Tom Jenkins – The Guardian
All Images © Tom Jenkins – The Guardian

Career

Highlights

  • 1986 – 1988 Documentary Photography at Gwent College of Higher Education
  • 1989 – 1990 Freelancing for Allsport (now Getty Images), Guardian, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Express, Independent
  • 1990 – Guardian/Observer
  • FIFA World Cups (7)
  • UEFA Euro Champs (2)
  • FA Cup Finals (30)
  • UEFA Champions League finals (9)
Q&A with Tom Jenkins

What came first, sport or photography?
“Sport. Grandstand on Saturday afternoon – you couldn’t shift me. My parents were always very worried about me, wondering what I was going to do for a living. They knew I Ioved sport, but was useless at most of it. Photography came in when I did art A Level, and lots of photography and printing as part of that. My school had a very active photography club, so I learnt how to develop and print there. At home we had an unused outside bathroom I converted into a darkroom.”

Who did you look up to when you were young, and who has helped you most with your development?
“Chris Smith and Eamonn McCabe. I looked at their work all the time, bought their books and decided that’s what I wanted to do. Obviously Eamonn McCabe gave me a spot at the Guardian, so I am thankful to him. Around the same time all the guys at Allsport influenced me an enormous amount, particularly Bob Martin, Chris Cole, Simon Bruty, Steve and Mike Powell.”

One change for the better to improve football photography for the next generation of photographers?
“Guaranteeing the next generation of photographers will be allowed to photograph football.”

Favourite ground and why?
“Ali Sami Yen Stadium, Istanbul – Galatasaray’s previous home. I remember going to do a match there thinking this is an atmosphere like no other atmosphere I had experienced. It was like a revolution was taking place!”

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“Being hit on the head by a traffic cone at Fratton Park, Portsmouth. It had been chucked at me from the crowd!”

Favourite footballer to work with?
“I did a portrait with Zlatan a few years ago when he was at PSG, and I was trying to negotiate with this enormous personality who walked into the room, and who obviously thought he was fantastic. Trying to persuade him to do what I wanted him to do, when he didn’t want to do it was incredibly challenging, and the verbal sparring between him and me as I tried to get what I wanted was great fun. The outcome? I did get Zlatan’s bare feet in the picture!”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?
“Canon”

First match photographed?
“When I was at college in Newport, I did a story about Newport County FC who were shockingly bad, bottom of the old Fourth Division and at risk of going out of the Football League. I did a few of their games at their Somerton Park ground for a project.”

If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
“When I was 15 or 16 I really got into snooker, became quite good at it and played for my local team and the county side. Then I started playing in a few tournaments in the south-east and played Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry – all those guys. I also played an exhibition match with Ray Reardon at my local cinema. I remember walking onto the stage with him as he lapped up the applause, then he turned to me and said ‘nice to meet you, son, but just remember they are here to see me, not you’. I broke-off, then he cleared the table. I had played one shot! I was decent in my town, but when I played at a higher level I got hammered all the time. There were lots of kids like Ronnie around London who were unbelievable. The standard was incredible, and I eventually realised I wasn’t going to be a snooker player.”

Best advice for youngsters?
“Don’t limit yourself to what you think is the obvious football photo.”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“Never stop trying. It was instilled in me at an early age, that if you don’t try you will never get. There is a lot of luck involved in football photography, so sometimes you need to put yourself in the right spot for the luck to happen for you. Make your own luck. If you decide you can’t be bothered to put a remote down, you won’t get a great remote photo. I have to keep reminding myself of that. If you haven’t got the passion and love for it it shows in your photography.”

What awards have you won?
1990 UK Young Press Photographer of the Year
1991 Ilford Sports Photographer of the Year
2000 What the Papers Say Sports Photographer of the Year
2002 Nikon Sports Photographer of the Year
2003 Zurich Rugby Photographer of the Year
2003 Sports Journalist Association Sports Photographer of the Year
2004 What the Papers Say Photograph of the Year
2004 British Press Awards Sports Photographer of the Year
2004 Sports Journalist Association Sports Photographer of the Year
2006 British Press Awards Sports Photographer of the Year
2007 British Press Awards Sports Photographer of the Year
2008 Four awards at the BPPA Press Photographer’s Year
2009 Barclays Premier League Photographer of the Year
2011 Barclays Premier League Photo of the Year
2015 British Press Awards Sports Photographer of the Year
2015 UK Picture Editors Sports Photographer of the Year
2017 World Press Photo 1st place Sports Singles
2019 Wisden Cricket Photo runner-up

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