Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Interview with Shelley Calton

The wait is over: one week from today, Shelley Calton's book Hard Knocks Rolling with the Derby Girls will be available for purchase. For several years, she followed derby girls from Houston Roller Derby, creating unique and revealing portraits of the women behind the sport. You can buy your copy at the next bout on June 20th, or through her website. This week, Shelley was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the book and her work.

How did you become interested in derby girls as subjects for your photographs?
I first heard about the revival of Roller Derby on a radio advertisement while I was visiting Austin in 2001. I had a fleeting thought then about starting a new project; I loved the idea of photographing a diverse group of women athletes in risqué clothing! However, I thought the distance would be a problem. Several years later I read an article in the Chronicle about the start up of a league in Houston. I called up April Pesillo, aka Knocky Balboa, who was interviewed in the article and asked her if I could come out to a practice session. This was the start of my long relationship with the Houston Roller Derby.

-You got to experience some of the behind-the-scenes moments with the skaters that few people get to see. Talk a little about what it was like to see both the public and intimate view.
I really appreciate the liberties and freedom the skaters gave me with my camera. Over time we developed a trusting relationship, which allowed me to capture the more intimate behind the scenes moments, not just the tougher exterior in the rink shots. Being a woman photographer did give me some advantages that male photographers might not have. The private moments just before the start of the game and just after the end of the game were my favorites times to shoot and some of my best shots came from within the dressing room walls.

How do you feel like Hard Knocks fits in with your overall body of work?
Hard Knocks Rolling with the Derby Girls is my first truly documentary photojournalistic body of work. My latest body of work Invisible Thread is a studio still life project of women’s vintage lingerie pinned to a white backdrop. The two projects although quite different do have some similarities. The premise of both bodies of work centers on femininity. I wonder if part of the skater’s costumes, i.e. the fishnets and bustiers didn’t subconsciously lead me into the Invisible Thread work. There is a yin and yang, the feminine yet tough appearance of the women of the roller derby and the fragile side of the lingerie.

Look for Shelly Calton and Hard Knocks Rolling with the Derby Girls at our next bout, June 20th at Kicks! There will be book signings around Houston coming soon--more info to follow!


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