At 16, most of Isaac Parkin’s age mates would have gone out on weekends, doing what teenagers do. Not Isaac, however, he would work as a professional photographer.
That’s an impressive feat, considering how incredibly difficult it is to get accredited as a professional sports photographer covering league games or the EFL.
Football Data Co, which manages sports photographers accreditation, needs a comprehensive portfolio. Building such a portfolio takes time, effort and skill.
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Then there is the little question of the pro level kit. Sports photography requires a specific camera which is expensive. A Canon 1DX Mark III, the industry standard camera for such a job, costs at least Â£ 3,000 used. A 70-200mm lens, another must have an industry standard kit, costs Â£ 1,300, used.
It’s hard to master the art of taking quick action shots while crouching in a corner. It often takes ordinary photographers more than 5-7 years to try to get a single pass to cover a professional sports match. And most never arrive on the second.
But then there is Isaac Parkin. The wonder of Sheffield.
âI have always had an interest in photography since I was young, taking pictures on my phone wherever I went. I started taking photography more seriously when I received a canon 1300d as a gift. Christmas at the age of 14. It was a big step up from my phone, âsays Isaac.
As a sports enthusiast, Isaac was drawn to sports photography. After some research, he bought an entry-level second-hand zoom lens and emailed teams outside the league asking them to cover their games.
Hallam FC, Sheffield FC, Parkgate FC and Worksop Town accepted his request. So Isaac covered the games and gave them the pictures.
When the UK went into lockdown in 2020, Isaac teamed up with famed sports photographer Richard Washbrooke who referred him to Mark Cozy; who owns a sports photography agency. Mark greeted Isaac and mentored him, before giving him a chance.
âThe first professional match I photographed was Harrogate Town v Walsall in September 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic when matches were going behind closed doors. I remember being very nervous, it was my first time was working in a pro stadium. It was the first time working with a laptop by my side and I didn’t know any other photographers to talk to, so I entered the game extremely nervous, “says Isaac .
By this time, Isaac had become a sensation on Twitter. A 16 year old professional photographer covering matches in professional leagues. He kept his head down and his goal of photographing a Premier League game.
“I received an email from Simon Bellis of Sport Image asking if I’m available to cover the Burnley v Spurs game. Without any hesitation I said yes,” he said.
“As I still cannot drive, I had to find a way to get to the ground. My father offered to drive me to the match and I bought him a ticket for the match in return,” he said. added.
Isaac’s big dream had arrived. But so was Storm Arwen. It wasn’t a bad thing, Isaac recalls.
âI got to the ground two and a half hours before kick-off. When I got inside the stadium, the pitch was covered in snow and with the snow still falling, I couldn’t wait to photograph my Premier League game in the snow. There aren’t many times there where you can photograph Premier League football in the snow, “he says.
But then Isaac was robbed.
âWe heard a message read on the AP saying the game had been postponed due to snow 45 minutes after kick-off. I was emptied. I had been preparing for this game all week and then it m ‘was withdrawn so quickly. “he explains.
Isaac didn’t fold his arms and sobbed though. The game was gone, but that in itself was the new story. Isaac the photographer became Isaac the photo journalist.
Isaac’s entire teenage life had been built on becoming a Premier League photographer. Burnley vs Tottenham Hotspur was his ‘written in the stars’ moment. Storm Arwen robbed her of that moment, but by a twist of fate, she also gifted him another moment: the front page of a national newspaper.
âWhen the game was called my job as a photographer was to capture the story of it. I had captured the gardeners clearing snow off the pitch before, but all the other photographers did too. I wanted to capture something that the other photographers might not have captured so I took my cameras out of the stadium and photographed the supporters on their way home, âhe says.
“I saw a young fan who stood out more than the rest. The fan was wearing his Burnley coat, with his hood up and holding a snowball. I thought it would be a perfect photo opportunity,” a- he added.
Isaac was right. It was the perfect photo. That evening he realized another dream.
âI got a message from sports photographer Molly Darlington on Sunday night who sent me a photo of my photo on the Guardian’s front page,â Isaac says.
Isaac was delighted. He rushed to show his parents and felt a feeling like no other.
âEvery sports photographer wants their photos to appear on the front / back page of a national newspaper and that the buzz you get when you see your photos used never change. So seeing one of mine used and being on the front page was special, âhe said.