To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, we have launched a new Q&A series taking a look at some of the hard-working women who keep things running behind the scenes at GIANTS Netball.
Narelle Spangher – Official Photographer
What is your role on the team?
I’m the official photographer for Netball NSW and GIANTS Netball. I cover all of the GIANTS home game days, fans days, awards nights, major events and things like player appearances and clinics. And I capture all of the images on the official photo day.
With Netball NSW, it’s a lot more grassroots events like the TAFE NSW School’s Cup, plus competitions like Fast5 and Walking Netball out at Associations. Also, I may do some of the bigger competitions like State Age, State Championships and Premier League.
How long have you been working with Netball NSW and GIANTS Netball?
Since around 2012. The first job I did was a player appearance at a clinic – with April Brandley actually – and it just went from there. From clinics it developed into other competitions like State Age, Premier League and awards nights. Once Suncorp Super Netball came around and GIANTS Netball, I became a lot more involved in doing the team stuff including photo days, fan days and game days.
I love working with the team, but I also really enjoy the grassroots stuff as well. It’s a wide variety and lots of challenges, but every shoot is different so it’s good that way.
I like working with people – not just sitting behind the lens and hiding, but just getting involved and getting up close and personal with people and conversing. I think that’s what I like most about my job. Just meeting different people along the way and learning from them as well.
As a photographer, how important is the vibe of a day and the energy to you on a job?
I do like to get involved and I do like to feel the energy of the day or the event and of what’s about to happen. Every game or every job or event is different and has a different level of energy.
In saying that, I like to look for fans that are hyped up and I like shooting pictures where the players and coaches have lots of emotions going on and capturing the energy that way.
It’s interesting because you’ve also got to keep a level head at the same time. You can’t get too caught up in the emotion of it all. You sort of have to remove yourself from the emotion. If the team is winning you still have to keep doing your job and move on and capture what’s happening. If it’s a close game you can’t drop the ball and get too nervous – you have to keep concentrating on what you’re doing. You are on their side and you want them to win and you do want to barrack from them, but at the same time you can’t and you just have to be calm.
It’s also hard to not get involved in the emotional side of it in those especially big moments. Like when Bec Bulley suddenly announced her retirement at the end of the year last year; I was just photographing the girls and it was already emotional because of Pratts (Susan Pettitt) retiring and then she made the announcement. It’s hard to not get emotional when those things happen.
With tough moments like an injury, you really think it’s not a great moment to capture but there is merit or value to doing it, even if it’s just for the player’s benefit when they look back on their recovery. You just have to kind of separate yourself a bit from it and sometimes it’s a lot harder than other times.
What made you want to work in sport?
I’ve always loved sport. I grew up in Melbourne so it’s very much a part of the Melbourne culture. I always played a lot of sport as a kid and I loved watching sport on TV. In Melbourne it’s very accessible to go to watch live sport and I would go to AFL games each weekend, if I wasn’t playing myself.
Are you a netball fan?
I’m a fan and I’m certainly becoming more of a fan now that I work in netball more and more.
When I lived in Melbourne, I did follow the Melbourne Phoenix and Melbourne Vixens. I played netball as a kid and even as an adult a little bit, but working shiftwork on weekends like I did in my old job meant it was hard to commit fully to teams all the time.
I went to an all-girls school, so you definitely played netball there. I was a serviceable defender, a keeper, not a flashy midcourter or shooter.
Is there another sport that you really love and why?
I love the AFL, both the men’s game and now the AFLW, because I love the sport itself and I love how the game is played and the skill involved in it. I like watching it live at the grounds. I’m Victorian and I grew up kicking a footy, so I love it and I love the history of it.
What was your career progression to get into your current role?
Photography was a hobby at first and it wasn’t until later that I started photographing my younger brother playing footy. It started as something I was doing on the weekend for fun and it wasn’t until later that I decided that I wanted to see if I could have a go at it for a job. So, I went back to college and studied and started doing little jobs here and there in between doing my full-time job.
I used to work at Triple Zero in Melbourne on the police radios. I was a police radio dispatcher. That’s a 24-hour business, which did allow some flexibility as well, so I was doing that and then studying at the same time and then just sort of slowly got out of that role.
Then I moved to Sydney and became a full-time freelance photographer. I thought ‘let’s see if I can give it a go while I’m up here’ and the rest is history.
What other photography do you do?
I work with AFL NSW/ACT and their grassroots and development programs and community camps and their grand final and gala days. I do some corporate jobs as well, which is not as glamorous, but I still learn quite a lot from those jobs. That’s anything from conferences to award ceremonies. I do a lot of work as well with an aged care facility and photographing the facility itself for marketing and then also the residents and staff because they do profiles on them. I have also done some property photography.
Shooting Australia, as in Air Rifle and Pistol competitions, are also another client. I work with their marketing team to showcase the athletes.
What did you study to get into your industry?
When I decided that I wanted to turn my photography hobby into a professional career I went back to college and studied film and digital photography for a couple of years. I received an Arts Diploma in Photography from a private college in Melbourne.
It taught me more of the technical side of things and the terminology. The course gave me confidence and an understanding and appreciation of some of the history of photography. Plus, I learnt different techniques in film and how to process photos in a dark room, while also learning Photoshop at the same time.
It was also a good way of networking and meeting people in the industry. A lot of my work and jobs I get through meeting people and word of mouth. It’s quite important to network when you’re working for yourself. Your name is your reputation as well, so you should be out there trying to meet people and form connections.
I think women struggle to talk ourselves up in the industry, which is very male dominated anyway. We’re not that good at showing off. So, getting out there and meeting people and networking is a good confidence builder and a way to show what I can do.
What inspires you about the GIANTS Netball brand or the team?
I’m inspired by the fact that they are so family orientated and that GIANTS are one of the few Clubs that’s have representation in three teams across the netball, AFL and AFLW franchises and I think that’s a good way to get everyone playing the sports.
I do like that they’re new and have had the opportunity to build a culture and build the team in the way they wanted to from the start.
Is there a special moment working with GIANTS Netball and the team that comes to mind?
Photographing the players in the grand final behind the scenes was very special. That’s not something that I take for granted because I’m very grateful for the opportunity. But also, I quite enjoy the team photo day. I think I’m enjoying it more now because it’s great to photograph the players away from the court and get more of a feel for their personalities and it’s nice to capture them as who they really are.
I like working with the Marketing and Comms teams and really having an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve and then coming together as a group to achieve that. I find that quite rewarding as there are not a lot of opportunities where I get to collaborate. It’s also a high energy and fun day.
What has been your proudest moment working with GIANTS Netball and Netball NSW or even in your career?
I was lucky enough to get to work with Netball Australia and cover the Diamonds at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It was amazing. I never would have thought that I would be doing that. It was a different experience as well, just covering one team instead of being across the whole tournament. It was nice to just follow the players. It’s quite an honour and it’s not something that I take for granted to be asked to do stuff like that. It was really special to be asked to go behind the scenes and inside the camp.
To cover big events like that – like the GIANTS grand final in 2017 – for Julie (Fitzgerald), Kim (Green) and Jo (Harten) and Lisa Alexander and CBass (Caitlin Bassett) to allow that happen, along with the media team, is quite an honour and it’s not something I take for granted. You have to appreciate every moment.
Obviously, those are some highlights but beyond that, it’s just a feeling about being allowed to capture those moment that makes me so excited and proud. As I said before, I don’t take that for granted and I am very thankful for all of those opportunities.
Honestly, as a whole I am proud that I get to take photos for a living.
What does it mean to get to work in a sport that has such a strong female participation base?
It’s probably something I’ve been comfortable with my whole life. I grew up at an all-girls school and I’ve always been surrounded by strong women who are just going after what they want. I find that quite inspiring.
I find that working amongst the GIANTS or Netball NSW is quite inspiring. Everybody is there because they love it. It’s hard not to get caught up in that and it’s hard not to want to bring that same amount of passion to my work because everybody there just loves it. They want the best possible outcome for the team and the sport in general, from grassroots to the GIANTS.
Do you think the sports landscape is changing for women?
It’s slowly changing and there are sports doing it faster than others. Obviously, netball is a female dominated sport, so there’s always women commentators and the like. The AFL is slowly trying to do better as well, with women commentating during men’s games on the boundary.
We’re almost the first or one of the early generations of women that were told that we should go out and do whatever we wanted. Before it seemed that there were certain roles for women in the workforce, but now women are being told by those women who came before and also their parents that we can do whatever we want, so just go out there and do it.
Now there’s a bunch of women that are just going out there and chasing the jobs that they really want to do.
Women have always had to work hard to prove ourselves. We certainly don’t showcase ourselves enough or give ourselves enough credit, but I think we’re getting better at it.
Who is your hero and why?
I don’t think I really have one particular hero. There are photographers I admire for the people who they are and the work that they do. But in my own little bubble of life, my heroes are my family and my close network of friends that support me. They are heroes because they are great people that get out there and they just do what they do and they do it well.
My family members and those close to me are the people I admire for any challenges they have faced and how they get through it. My brother a little bit of a hero to me. He’s younger than me but what he achieved in his career, the struggles and battles, to come out the other side and be strong is really inspiring.
What motivates and inspires you?
I’m inspired by always wanting to improve. I certainly don’t know it all and don’t proclaim to know it all. I want to improve my photography skills and I want to improve my knowledge of the game itself as well.
I always want the next job to be better than the last one. And I’m always working towards being better – a better photographer and a better person.
What motivates and inspires me is that I do want those people around me to be proud of me. Not just for what I’m producing, but how hard I’m working and that I’m just living the life I want to live.