Alice Gipps is a polo player and polo photographer. Her pictures have been used extensively by many other publications including Horse & Hound, PQ International, Equestrio, Polo & Polistas, and many other worldwide polo publications as well as international newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph and The Times.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
“I started riding when I was around three years old and was lucky enough to have ponies from a young age, so I spent many hours in the saddle learning everything from dressage and show jumping to cross country and hunting. Everything, except polo, as it was the one sport my pony club didn’t offer, so I started playing in my early 20s.
“Having had horses all my life, I decided to study Equine Science at university. In school, I was a keen artist but decided it would be more beneficial to learn more about horse anatomy and nutrition and keep drawing and painting as a hobby. Having dabbled in polo during the last two years of school, it wasn’t until my father bought me a polo lesson as a birthday present that I truly got into the sport. Since then, it’s become my lifeーplaying, breeding, training homebreds, and combining this with a job I love.”
What came firstーpolo or photography?
“Horses first, photography, and then polo. From an early age, I shared my father’s love for photography. My interest in polo began by taking photographs of the sport at my local club as a hobby. When I finished school, I spent the summer helping out at the stables at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club, where I had gone for the birthday polo lesson. Any of my spare time was spent taking photographs of the games.
“One of the UK’s leading polo magazines, Polo Times, spotted my work and started publishing it in 2002. Since then, I have provided them with numerous images, written articles, and had over 25 front cover images to date.”
How did you get into photography?
“Having one of the UK’s leading polo magazines using my work inspired me to follow a career in photography rather than a job with the equine science degree I had from the university. It has allowed me to follow the polo seasons using my artistic creativity. Also, as a freelance artist, it meant I could also work on my other passionーworking with young horses and playing polo. To fit everything in, it requires early starts and long days but photography allows me to be flexible enough to combine everything.”
How did you get into polo?
“I seriously became involved in polo after helping out at the RCBPC and then buying my first pony. I have now been playing for 13 years, reaching a 0 goal handicap in mixed, and 3 goals in women’s polo.
“I have been fortunate to be invited to play in some fantastic teams such as Jaeger Le Coultre and Audi, and I have also organized teams for sponsors such as Cadenza, Crabbie’s, and most recently, Vardags, winning the most prestigious ladies tournaments in the UK.
“Women players are getting more opportunities to play abroad in international tournaments. Playing internationally at Polo Escape in Thailand is another highlight of my women’s polo career to date.
“My involvement with polo extends further than photography and playing. I also previously organized ladies tournaments both in Argentina and the UK, as well as running the Polo Bloodstock Agency which offers incredible stallions with amazing bloodlines for service in the UK, Argentina, and Sotogrande, such as the Multi Best Playing prize-winning stallion Don Urbano Rolinga as well as selling good quality ponies of all levels.”
Your photography and polo have obviously allowed you to travel extensively. What is most memorable?
“There are many aspects of the photography that have been memorable, from traveling to interesting locations such as India, Russia, Switzerland, and Argentina, to meeting like-minded people with a love of horses. But my favorite part of the job is actually taking the pictures at whichever location I end upーalways getting a great close-up view of the action right beside the field and the challenge to get new, breathtaking images.
“No two polo games are ever the same, so there is always the uncertainty of where the play will happen on the field. The challenge is to capture the best, most dramatic moment of the action when it comes in her direction. Knowing the subject and the sport very well now I can always get satisfactory results, but aim to get at least one to two pictures from each shoot that have the wow factor.”
Where and what is your favorite place to photograph?
“The first year in St. Moritz in 2005 as the scenery is spectacular in the Swiss mountains. The polo was played on the frozen lake and the pictures were stunning with the snow kicking up, steam from the horses, and all the spectators wrapped up in beautiful furs. Even some of the dogs had fur hats.
“India was another memorable experience where I was invited by friends to play ladies’ polo in Jaipur. The colors, vibrancy, and fascinating lifestyle meant India was a photographer’s dream. I even experienced elephant polo.
“Several of the finals at the most important polo tournaments in the world, like the Argentine Open, have definitely been unforgettable as the atmosphere was electric.
“Watching the world’s best players such as Adolfo Cambiaso or Facundo Pieres on their incredible horses is an amazing experience both as a spectator and a photographer. The crowds go wildーit is more like a football game with fans waving flags, smoke flares, and hooters with everyone sitting on the edge of their seat as the game goes into overtime for the golden goal.
“Although over the years I have built up an excellent relationship with the polo press, players and patrons with my work now known throughout the polo community, I would love for my Fine Art pictures to reach a wider audience as framed prints, using my photography as a form of artistic expression by combining all my passionsーthe in-depth knowledge of horses from childhood, the Equine Science degree, art and the unique experience of playing polo for many years have definitely helped fuel endless ideas for my creative work to be admired on people’s walls and appreciated for their depiction of the beauty of the horse.”
What advice would you give a budding photographer who is contemplating a career in it?
“In comparison to when I first started out, there are a growing number of people taking up polo photography with the advances in digital photography. Cameras that shoot several frames per second make it easy for anyone to take endless images and inexpensive to discard the bad ones. However, there are very few professionals who consistently take spectacular images. Aim to gain a deep insight into the sport which requires adding artistic desire to portray the beauty and power of the horse and the extreme skills of the players.
“While it’s important all the time to consider the framing and composition while following the action at speed, try to include the vital components such as the ball, horses’ feet, and mallet heads. At the same time, fill the frame if you want to achieve a dramatic action shot. The key is to shoot at just the right moment when, for example, a player is stretching far out of the saddle to reach a shot or when mallets are hooked and bending. These are split seconds of a play so it helps if you can predict what the player is about to do. This is where knowledge of the game helps hugely to get these dramatic images.
“You don’t need the longest lens, but good quality is essential. Many people will ask for free images in exchange for credits; this can give you publicity occasionally but be selective and remember photo credits do not pay bills. Any photographer with self-worth will expect people to take them seriously and pay for their skills and time.”