Erin Petts is a recent graduate from University for the Creative Arts and is currently based in Hertfordshire. Her practice is primarily analogue based, working with documentary and photojournalism to appreciate her chosen subject matter of football. She works mainly around photographing a range of aspects surrounding football fandom and match day photography, representing smaller female faces to provide a fresh and modern look at sport.
In this interview Erin discusses her creative practice, being a female football fan and some of her work.
How would you describe your creative practice?
"Mainly focused around football, I’d say I like to dabble in a lot of different aspects of football as well. There’s the mainstream side of taking pictures of people playing the sport, but I am more interested in football fan culture and the community that it brings. I like to take pictures of people outside of stadiums, peoples stories with football, fan experiences and the hype of the game day."
What drew you to photography and what does it allow you to do as an artist?
"I’d say at the beginning I just liked taking pretty pictures (as well all do). I don’t think I ever really thought about what I was really good at until I went to uni and I got to express myself more. Until uni I wasn’t exposed to film and didn’t really understand what photography could do. I started to explore different aspects and at first I thought I was good at portraiture, street photography, showing everyday life, making boring things look beautiful, but then I found football photography. Now I feel like it really lets me have fun with my interests without the typically reading of football books or watching a football game, it allows me to deal with the subject in my own way."
Petts 2019, A Proper Football Woman
How has your experience been as a female football fan?
"On a whole it’s been alright I’d say, I come from a family which is really football oriented anyway. I never was really exposed to negative issues until I started researching for my football projects. I knew of little bits that happened to my sister when she was at school and I obviously always knew that feminism and being sexist was a thing, but I never experienced it intensely. I didn’t get into football until I was seventeen/eighteen, so I didn’t get picked on about it at school. Although I feel like at uni even when I started to delve into that world, I had men say things like “why do you always talk about football?”, and they’d say “does it always have to be about football?”. I was like I am doing project about football so of course I’m going to be talking about it! It just angers me because boys can play Fifa and talk about football and post about football all the time why am I not aloud to? So I feel like I’ve experienced a little bit of it but after talking to people for my project I was exposed to the types of things that some boys say to girls about football, one girl got screamed at in a pub just because she wearing a football top and told to go home but I have never heard of that and seen that. It gave me the motivation to make work around females in football."
Would you say those experiences have driven your work?
"Definitely, I feel like I now want to spread the word and be apart of the conversations people are having, spreading the positivity about women football fans. I see other photographers working with the same subject matter and I want to share platforms with them and be like yeah go us! A platform which I really love is a group called This Fan Girl, they always say they work to change how female football fans are perceived on the internet, so when you google fan girl it doesn’t come up with all the disgusting things that people say. Their goal is to spread images and positivity so we can have a safe space to talk about it and enjoy it, not have to have men poo all over it. You know, get a life!"
What have been some of your favourite projects you’ve made?
"The first project I did surrounding football was my favourite one because it was the first time I thought I could use football in my work. Through solarisation I physically removed footballers heads and turned them into robots and had fun making them look weird. But also showing off their muscles and showing that its more than a pretty face and it takes a lot of work to be a professional footballer.
Petts 2019, It's Not All About You
For my following series “A Proper Football Woman”, I originally wanted to do a project on documenting football fans. I just love football fandom and that conveys a big part of why I like to photograph football, It does bring about such a big community which shapes a lot of football. Then I was going to shoot other people but I thought I should probably start on me first and figure out where my love of football comes from. I didn’t start watching football until I was older even though it was so prevalent in my household, its just always been such a big part of our family. So it was fun then showing all off the football things in our house, and then when I wasn’t watching football I’d love to watch my dad attach football because I think its hilarious and he gets to passionate so I decided to see what i'd look like watching football. So I was experimenting with so many different ways I could engage with football, a part of that did turn into how I am a woman, because of this it is such a special project to me.
Petts 2019, A Proper Football Woman
This lead me to my latest project “Bless Their Efforts”. It was when I was making it I was getting all these comments like “why does it always have to be about football?” and I was like just let me be! Different aspects like this made me want to make a project about females because they’re so under represented, and all of the material I looked at for making a project on football fans was centred around men. I though what can I do to make it special to me and stand out? I can make it about women, So I did!"
Petts 2020, Bless Their Efforts
Are you working on any current projects?
"I set up an instagram over lockdown. I have been having fun with illustration and my idea was a campaign profile which is going to celebrating female fan culture. It will feature any kind of art by women football fans, it's mainly just some fun and it not being necessarily about what’s going on in football. It's about what we like about football and reminding ourselves that It’s okay to like it because no matter what anyone says, you like what you like and you don’t need to be silenced because of other people."
Petts 2021, The Peoples Game
Where do you see your practise going in the future?
"I would like to be shooting matches, it would be fun to try shooting women games. My dream carer is to be taking action shots, up in Manchester doing my thing. Obviously privately as well, I want to make sure that I’m constantly making projects that are letting me be creative because I feel that football photography isn’t the most creative thing in the world."
You can find more of Erins work below: