In Terry Graham’s photography bowls is far from boring

The London-based photographer spotlights warm personalities and the satisfying uniformity of the game for the lifestyle brand Fhilosopher.

2 August 2023

Sport and fashion have always had a symbiotic relationship. Whether it’s Fred Perry’s iconic tennis polo shirts, Micheal Jordan’s must-have trainers, or the recent rise of the football shirt as a fashion accessory, the apparel worn on the pitch has always made its way into the mainstream. Though one sport that may not be as well known for its fashion is the world of bowls. Here, function has always seemed to trump fashion, with slacks, shirts and visors a mainstay. A photographer intent on changing this perspective is Terry Graham. In a campaign for South Korean lifestyle brand Fhilosopher, the photographer has shone a light on the class and community on display at a Bowls club in Kent, England.

Terry approached the open brief from Fhilosopher as he often does – by zooming in on a close-knit community and the lives of ordinary people. Specifically, in Bowls and Routine, the photographer focused on the lives of those who meet every week at Angel Indoor Bowls Club. This creative decision was informed by the story of Terry’s family friend who was “saved” by bowls after his wife was taken into care. “Unable to find a routine, he joined the club Angel, which for years he had considered ‘for old people’,” says Terry. “It became a place where he found friendship, support and purpose – being part of a team helped him enormously.”

GalleryTerry Graham: Bowls & Routine (Copyright © Terry Graham, 2023)

With this in mind, Terry was keen on creating a sports-centred series in which the physical activity of the sport was not the focus. Instead, the spotlight was given to the people and Terry created “a visual language that reflects the environment’s graphic lines and composition, with pops of primary colours”, guiding the viewer into the world of indoor bowls.

Throughout the shoot Terry met a lot of “great personalities”, including Malcolm, who features in one of his favourite images from the series. Stylistically, the photographer wanted to emulate Lance Oppenheim’s Some Kind of Heaven, a dreamlike 2020 documentary that focuses on the community in the largest retirement village in Florida, US. Terry’s portrait has a very satisfying symmetry, with lockers and ceiling tiles framing the shot. But the real start of the show is Malcolm; slap bang in the middle of the image, he smiles as he holds a bowl, dressed in a simple yet stylish blue sweatshirt, white trousers and fresh white trainers.

While bowls is about coming together, having a few drinks and socialising, Terry confirms that it’s still very competitive. In Judging on Rink 1, players group around a ball, all closely inspecting the game; you can almost see the simmering tension of a disagreement occurring. The composition reminds Terry of a religious photo, with a figure pointing a finger and the bright white light from above almost appearing like a halo. But then you see the breeze block brick walls, felt chairs and fire exit, firmly reminding you that no, you’re not looking at Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, but a bowls club in Kent.

GalleryTerry Graham: Bowls & Routine (Copyright © Terry Graham, 2023)

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Terry Graham: Bowls & Routine (Copyright © Terry Graham, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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