A cuppa with the 73-year-old sports photographer who’s seen it all

I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting in Eileen Langsley’s living room chatting about long-forgotten gymnasts over a cup of tea.

I first came across the now 73-year-old’s work when I was a young gymnast in the 1980s. I’d clocked her name because she appeared to be the only female sports photographer in gymnastics’ programmes and books.

One day, I thought, one day I’ll see if I can meet her or shadow her for the day, learn a few tricks of the trade and maybe for a day-in-the-life-of-a-photographer type piece.

I’d never got round to it but while visiting a rural sports field in the Derbyshire village of Baslow I saw a note pinned to the wall advertising, ‘An Evening With Eileen Langsley portrait smEileen Langsley’.

I mean, strike me down with a leotard I couldn’t believe it. Before long I had an interview arranged and here I was, sat in her front room gossiping about long-forgotten gymnasts that only truly hardcore fans would remember. Marie Roethlisberger anyone? Stella Umeh? Yep, thought not.

A high serve

Kasumi Ishikawa (Japan) at the 2011 English Open Table Tennis Championships in Sheffield.

We chatted for ages to the point where I had to carry out a phone netball interview for Sky Sports while sat in Eileen’s upstairs office.

We looked through some of her photos from the London 2012 opening ceremony to see if by some small miracle she’d managed to take any photos of me as I’d been a performer in the event and Eileen was there photographing it. Sadly it was not to be but it was thrilling and a privilege to see her un-edited photos.

Eileen has covered 13 Summer and Winter Olympic Games having started out as a PE teacher who took photos of schoolgirls to try and get coverage in the local paper.

Some of the tales she tells, particularly about being a female photographer in a male-dominated environment during the 80s, will make your toes curl.

Interview will be online once I’ve transcribed it. It’s a looooong one.

Books: Link to Eileen’s published books (printed and e books)

Eileen’s website

Author: Jo Gunston

Roving blogging superfan shares behind the scenes stories of her sports life and the best of those from like-minded souls.

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