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Shot selection

A bat, a graveyard, a photograph

If the gentleman's game is dying, how do you portray it in a picture?

Philip Brown
Philip Brown
Kids play cricket on a foggy Kolkata morning, March 2011

One foggy morning in Kolkata  •  Philip Brown

Recently a friend who was making a film about cricket asked me to help him out and provide a photograph that would be suitable for the poster promoting the film. Sam Collins has taken four years to complete his project with much assistance from Jarrod Kimber and cricketer Ed Cowan. The film explores the state of Test cricket and the administration of the great game around the globe. It is called Death of a Gentleman, and after a few chats with Sam we agreed that I would attempt to take a photograph in a graveyard.
I also supplied photographs for use in the film itself. One of these was from a quick stopover in Kolkata in 2011. A group of photographers and journalists who were covering the World Cup, and were headed to India, had an unexpected diversion to the city after our flight from Chittagong had basically failed to happen. At most airports you get a good idea that your flight is not on schedule when a "cancelled" sign appears on a board or a screen. In Chittagong the staff just kind of vanished, doors stayed closed, and you had to work out that the lack of anyone behind the counter or in the vicinity meant that you are staying put. Anyway, to cut a fantastic and interesting story short, hours later we had somehow managed to get to Kolkata.
I took the opportunity to get up early the following morning and have a look at Eden Gardens. On the way to this massive and impressive stadium I saw a group of young men having a game of cricket on some wasteland, so I asked the driver to let me out of the car. It was early in the morning and with some fog about it was suited to a silhouette-type photo against the light. I was fairly happy with the shot but not ecstatic.
Especially for the Death of a Gentleman film, I decided to go to a local graveyard in north-west London with an old cricket bat that my father had passed on to me. It must be from the 1930s and has the autograph of Vic Richardson on it. Years later my father also got Richardson's grandsons Ian and Greg Chappell to sign the bat. He also wanted Trevor Chappell to sign it but I think he went into hiding after a one-day match against New Zealand.
Anyway I took my equipment to the nearest graveyard on a spring evening recently and carefully leaned the bat on the side of a gravestone. The bat kept blowing over and as I was on my own it took quite a while to get the shot that I was after. I used one flash that I placed on the ground to help light the shot. Thinking about it now, it must have looked mighty suspicious, entering a graveyard with a cricket bat, and I'm glad there was no one around as I spent three quarters of an hour shooting these photos.
I was really happy with the outcome but it did not please every single person involved in the film and all of a sudden the Kolkata shot from 2011 was deemed more suitable and used on the poster (Sam liked the graveyard shot by the way).
Kolkata shot, March 2011: Nikon D3 camera, 35-70mm lens at 58mm, shutter speed 1/1250, aperture f9, ISO 200
Graveyard shot, May 2015: Nikon D4 camera, 70-200mm lens at 110mm, shutter speed 1/250, aperture f4.5, ISO 100

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world