DOCUMENTING A WINNING MYSTICS SEASON
What a season it has been and by chance the Mystics were lucky enough to have Tāmaki Makaurau based photographer Thomas Hamill along for the ride creating a photo documentary of the historic championship winning year. We caught up with Thomas to talk about the project and what it has been like having access to the team.
“I’m not a sports photographer really and I couldn’t believe the pace of the game and the difference that made to how I had to take photographs” said Thomas as he described his experience of the first home game. “Netball is quite literally end to end action and I had to adjust to be really quick on the draw with focus, framing and pre-visualising shots that would be interesting. The first game was a real shock to the system from that sense.”
Thomas, who’s day job is working with professional musicians at the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, was surprised to be invited along for the journey in the first place. “Out of nothing more than hope I had written to Chris Tennant Netball Northern’s Operations Manager, whom I knew through some partnership work with the APO and asked if she would be open to me volunteering some time with the Mystics to document the season and capturing what it was to be part of the Mystics. Chris very kindly agreed to give me a go and arranged for me to come along to the first game, the project just really grew and grew from there.”
“I wasn’t sure how I would be received by the team and was very nervous at first. I have had limited exposure to professional athletes and didn’t know how they would react to a stranger in their midst. I got lucky really and caught a beautiful moment with Bailey Mes and a very young baby, I happened to just catch them in a post-game cuddle. Little did I know that this was the very first meeting of Bailey and her new niece who had just arrived from Melbourne! The picture was shared with the team and from then it was really comfortable: I think they realised I was here to tell a story, not give away any team secrets.”
When asked about his impression of team spirit behind the scenes Thomas smiles and nods knowingly. “Meghan the team manager invited me into the girl’s pre-game waiata on my second game with the team. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it was absolute joy filled pandemonium! Singing, dancing, shouting, and laughing but the thing that really was clear to me was the spirit amongst the team. It was clear they would do anything for each other.”
“This really continued in the training sessions. There was a healthy competitiveness in the mahi of the team but it is obvious that everyone was respectful and enjoyed being with each other. I don’t know what was going on between the oldies and youngies (the players – none of whom are that old) but someone was definitely keeping score there. Looked like a lot of wins for the youngies, but I am not sure.”
One thing that ties together Thomas’s photo story is that all the images are all in black and white. With blue being such an important colour for the Mystics we wanted to know more about this choice. “Sometimes colour can be distracting in photography. I wanted to show the drama of a game or intimacy of the team together without this. When we look at images in black and white we tend to go straight for the face. In colour images some colours, such as red, stand out more and draw our attention, perhaps away from the intended focus of the image. I also love the punchy contrasty look of black and white and it is a form I use regularly in my other work.”
So how does Thomas sum up his year with the Mystics? “It has been a huge privilege to have spent so much time with the team. Everyone at the Mystics was so kind and generous with their willingness to be part of the project and I want to say a huge thanks to them. As a documentarian the trick is to be there, but not be known to be there, be invisible. The best photos are the ones that no one knows have been taken and that reveal something of the character candidly. So many game photos are like that, but it is the other stuff that reveals the dedication, hard work and drive behind the Mystics mana. I took thousands of photos that tell so many stories within stories, narrowing them down has been the hardest part of the year. Also, I can’t believe the year we do this is the year we win the title! How lucky was I! Finally, I can’t wait to share the story of the year with the fans and supporters who come week after week and who are so passionate about their team.”
Thomas’s photo documentary Mystics Twenty One will be available as a book in limited quantities so keep an eye on our social pages as we look to give away a signed copy to one lucky recipient over the next few weeks. Selected pre-releases of the photos will be available on Thomas’s website at this LINK over the next few weeks.