Polo Lady talks to polo photographer Camilla Sykes.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
“I am a photographer specializing in polo. I live in Sotogrande, Spain with my two daughters, although I am originally from Shropshire, England.”
How did you get into polo photography?
“Initially, it’s because my sister and brother-in-law were playing and I went along to take photos of them. It just grew from there!”
Where did you study photography?
“I completed a four-year degree at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.”
How long have you been working in polo?
You travel a lot following the polo seasons. If you could live anywhere, where would you prefer to live and work?
“There are many polo destinations that I haven’t visited yet, such as Dubai, Thailand, and Palm Beach. So I think I have a lot more research to do before I can fairly answer that question!”
How can you describe your special style?
“I like to capture the most exciting moments of the game, spending time choosing the best images, and editing them to transfer that energy from the field to the viewer. Maybe my style can be defined by the color manipulation or the intense emotional charge of the images that I initially choose to edit. I find that each image requires a different edit, some photos look best in black and white and others benefit from saturated colors, so I edit each image individually and almost let the image choose its own style.”
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence you?
“When I was a child, I loved the seductive black and white photographs of Helmut Newton and Ansel Adams. When I saw their images, I knew I wanted to be a photographer.
“Later on in my career, I discovered the inspiring work of Brazilian-born photojournalist Sebastião Salgado and realized photography was a powerful tool for social documentation and commentary. I love the lighting in Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s slick images — they are like stills from a film and I can look at them for hours and let my imagination run with a story. Another favorite of mine is Andreas Gursky for the incredible detail, the scale of his photographs, and his comment on modern-day exuberance. There are many more photographers I could mention, like Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, and Corinne Day. This is really a topic on which I could talk about endlessly!”
What advice would you give a new polo photographer who is contemplating a career in this highly specific field?
“I would say do not just stick to polo. Keep an open mind because the polo world is a very small community.”
How satisfying has photography been as a career, and is there something else you would like to do?
“Photography has provided a wonderful opportunity to express creativity and to experiment within the medium. I used to paint, so when I have more time, I will pick up the paintbrush again.
Which is your favorite photograph that you have ever taken?
“Probably one of Santi Stirling flying through the air as he changed horses. He was playing for Ellerston in the Gold Cup Final 2010 in Sotogrande. I was right below him and the only background was the blue sky.”
Where can we see your works?
“On my website at www.camillasykes.com and in my new photo book, Sotogrande Polo Ponies, available on my website. Plus, I have work published in many polo magazines.”
What do you personally think about women’s polo from the point of view of the photographer?
“I love women’s polo because of the visual aesthetic of the female players. For example, long flowing hair can add a dimension to an image where the polo ponies do not have manes and their tails are tied up. It can be striking to see beautiful women playing such a dangerous and aggressive sport. There is a kind of juxtaposition there that is not present in the men’s game.”
What is your opinion about Polo Lady magazine?
Women’s Polo is growing fast and your magazine comes at the perfect moment to bring together a global community to share ideas and celebrate women’s polo. I wish you all the best and hope to see you at many future events.