mahabis interviews // jo caird
Professional photographer, Jo Caird has been photographing athletes for over twenty years. Since becoming the All Blacks first official photographer back in 1998, Jo has established a mutual trust with the team, ventured behind the scenes, and worked at the forefront of action on the pitch, shooting the famous haka almost two hundred times.
Her career has also spanned shooting at the Olympics, and creating commercial portraits for Adidas and more. Since the birth of her twins, Jo has added a natural element of children and families to her work portfolio. We caught up with Jo to talk about her experiences behind the camera, and how she spends her downtime once the lens is down.
Before we begin, could you explain what you do in just one sentence?
I consider myself a memory maker, an image creator. I take photographs so that in years to come people can look at them and be transported back to a meaningful time and place.
Have you always had an interest in photography? When did you know you wanted it to be your career?
My love of photography has always been constant but while on a tennis scholarship at an American university I had a eureka moment and realised that photographing sport could actually be my career path. Over the years I have become more interested in photographing the person rather than the activity.
You've photographed numerous sports personalities, prime ministers and celebrities, who has been the most fun to work with?
Without a doubt the legendary All Black, Jonah Lomu was the most fun. I never knew what he was going to come up with next; he really loved existing outside of the square. Jonah was an amazing man who always made sure I also had a memorable experience wherever we were in the world, whether it was Cape Town, Paris or Dublin.
What was it like being the official photographer for the All Blacks?
Wonderful and stressful, but most of alI, it was a huge privilege to have had the access I had to the All Blacks over the past 20 years. I was the All Blacks first official photographer back in 1998 when rugby turned professional so it was a really fascinating time to be involved with the team as they grappled with the new concepts of sponsorship and media. Now they are a truly well-oiled machine – but at the heart of it they are still a bunch of blokes playing a game they love.
The All Blacks have this aura of being big, strong invincible men who never bend but the reality is very different from that. I tried to capture each personality behind the black jersey.
Every player is unique – they come from such diverse backgrounds. Each week was so much more than just the 80 minutes of the rugby match.
The balance of your photography has changed from being rugby dominated, commercial/ sport based projects, including being contracted by adidas International and numerous other global sponsors, to NZ based commercial, editorial and portrait projects.
Whilst the subject has changed, has your photography style/ mindset changed too?
I was always planning to finish photographing the All Blacks after the 2011 RWC and as it was, it was an amazing final season. For them to win the World Cup at home here in NZ was an incredible experience. After almost 20 years of photographing the team it was a natural time to look for a new direction. And becoming pregnant with twins simply reinforced that decision.
I’m really enjoying having time to construct an image rather than just document what’s happening in front of me.
Do you like to take photographs in your downtime, or do you keep it strictly for work?
I take photographs all the time! I love that phones can now take a really good image so I’m pretty much photographing all the time. I have to make a conscious effort to put the camera away and just enjoy the moment, be part of the moment.
You must have taken thousands upon thousands of photographs in your lifetime, but if you had to pick three of your photos that continue to resonate, which would they be?
All Black Haka – Hosea Gear
Even though I photographed the All Black haka almost two hundred times, it still sends shivers up my spin when I see it in person. Being able to photograph between the two teams is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time and something that very few people ever get the chance to experience. The intensity coming from the players is hard to describe but it’s so important to remain focused on my camera and what I’m shooting.
Andrew Hore – Twickenham Bathtub
Obviously you can’t photograph a player in the shower but Twickenham Rugby Stadium still have good old-fashioned baths in their changing room. As I was photographing ‘Horey’ relaxing as only he does best, it dawned on me what truly amazing access I had. It took many years of establishing a mutual trust. This image always reminds me what an amazing journey I had documenting so many All Blacks living their dreams.
Jacob’s reflection at Takapuna Beach
My most recent image of one of my children is usually my favourite! This sums up where I’m trying to go with my portrait photography. An image that captures them at play without orchestrating the situation or interrupting their play. I think this image shows his strength and beauty, the calm before he leaps into the water. (This image was shot on my iphone.)
What led you to publishing your book about surfing in New Zealand?
My partner, Paula George and I both fell massively in love with surfing a few years back. It wasn’t like other hobbies; surfing seems to take over every part of your existence! The book ‘Surfers’ is more about the people who surf, how they have molded their lives around catching waves, how surfing has impacted on them and how they have become addicted to trying to recreate that feeling that can only be found standing on top of the water.
photo: ella williams, world junior champion '13 WSL
How important is downtime for you, and what is your ideal way to unwind?
Nothing beats a day at the beach with my family and friends. Sunshine, a few waves and lots of laughter, finished off with great food and a cold beer! We are so lucky here in NZ. Within a 30 minute drive from home we can either be on the west coast with big wild black sand beaches or 30 minutes in the opposite direction and you are on pristine white beaches.
Is there one city in the world that you’d never tire of visiting?
I spent a magical month once in Honolulu, mainly on the North Shore, and when I think about relaxing, that’s where I want to be.
Beautiful weather, warm water with the most amazing waves. Wonderfully chilled out people and a lot of really good shrimp.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
Switching off everything including my mind. Reading relaxing and inspiring material like I find in your journal while enjoying really really good coffee.