Fresh Arsenal exclusively spoke to official Arsenal Football Club photographer Stuart MacFarlane. He answered some fascinating questions for us which can be read in the transcript below. Enjoy.
The main response when I asked my followers for questions for you was how did you get the job at Arsenal? What experience did you have and what advice would you give to other photographers?
I studied photography at school and college but didn’t think I’d ever make it as a photographer let alone working in football.
In 1988 I got a job working in the darkroom for a Sports Picture Agency in Islington called Colorsport. Within two weeks I was sent out to photograph my 1st professional football match, Arsenal v Aston Villa at Highbury. We lost 3:2 and I didn’t get a picture, not a great start to my Arsenal career.
The following season Arsenal asked us to shoot a few matches for them and that’s really where it all started. Thankfully my photography improved and in 2001 when the club decided to employ a staff photographer they asked if I’d be interested.
What is the best route into getting a job at Arsenal, what do they look for?
I was very lucky to be offered a job at Arsenal, an opportunity like mine rarely comes up. I’d worked in the industry for over 10 years and gained valuable experience covering different sporting events including; Summer and winter Olympics, World Athletics Championships, domestic and European football, British Lions, Rugby World Cups and many more.
I wouldn’t have been offered my job at Arsenal without this experience and I couldn’t do it without the 10 years of training I had at Colorsport.
The job has evolved so much since I started, there are now two of us (David Price joined me 10 years ago), we both work 6 day weeks plus evenings and are generally on call 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Arsenal is a fantastic football club to work for, a really family club, I honestly believe there is no other place like it. So many ex players come back to visit and tell me they feel like they’re coming home.
What is your schedule on a match day?
For a 3pm home kick off I generally get to the stadium at around 10am.
From then until the match starts there’s a mixture of jobs including presentations, mascot pictures, stadium shots and work for sponsors / partners.
Setting up cameras before the match can take up to an hour as we may go on the roof of the stadium to do this, we fire these remotely form the pitch during the match.
After the match there’s a couple of presentation pictures with players and when that’s done we start to edit our images. Editing can take a couple of hours and during this time we’ll send out best pictures to Getty Images who syndicated for us. Last job of the day is to re-size, watermark and upload the match images to arsenal.com.
How difficult is it to focus on your job when Arsenal score a last minute winner?
When I first started it was really difficult, I used to get nervous before matches and pray for the final whistle if Arsenal were winning. I’m much better now and can control my emotions…most of the time.
I have a job to do and that job is to produce a good set of images from every match. Arsenal scoring a last minute winner is an incredible feeling for everyone, to have great pictures of this makes it a perfect day for me.
Have you ever photographed or been scheduled to photograph a player but deals have fallen through?
Favourite photograph you’ve taken and why?
That’s really difficult as there have been so many brilliant moments that I’ve been able to capture. I really don’t have a favourite photograph, I’ll leave that to the Arsenal fans to judge.
Favourite Arsenal game in your lifetime?
Here’s a list but there’s no particular order.
Man United away to win the league in 2002
Cup Winners Cup Final in 1994 v Palma
Cup Final v Chelsea 2002
Every game of the 49 Unbeaten run (Especially Man United away)
Last match at Highbury.
Inter Milan away in the Champions League 2003
Winning the league at WHL (again)
The two 5:2 matches against Tottenham
Chelsea away 2011
There are loads more!
What camera and lens do you use, and how much does it cost?
I use 3 Nikon D3s cameras and 1 Nikon D700. I have a broad range of lenses starting from a 15mm fisheye up to a 400mm telephoto which is the main football action lens.
Who is the hardest worker in training?
Which player do you like to photograph most? Who loves the camera? And.. who is the least photogenic?
Any Arsenal player who scores and runs towards me. You only need to look at my flickr account to see who loves the camera (Lukas Podolski).
How would you describe the spirit and atmosphere within the team compared to previous seasons?
The team spirit is brilliant, they are a fantastic group of professionals and I’m sure the fans can see how much playing for Arsenal means to them. There’s an incredible connection between this group of players and the supporters.
Do you do any Photography other than for Arsenal?
Sadly no, I don’t really get time.
… and the myth that needs to be solved. Are you related to Seth MacFarlane?
Unfortunately I’m not related to Seth MacFarlane.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter @Stuart_PhotoAFC and see some of his photos on his Flickr profile at http://www.flickr.com/photos/27453474@N02/
Arsenal pile-up photo by Keiran Clarke