Rollerskating. To many people, the activity is seen as a leisurely passed-time that is tried once or twice at a friend’s birthday party or some other kind of themed event. For many of us, little is known about the niche world of artistic rollerskating, but the graceful sport is vibrantly celebrated in underground circles including The London and Essex Artistic Rollerskating Club in London’s Hackney.
For the photographer Will Marsden, signed to Academy’s photographers, the East London club became the focus of his latest photographic series. He tells It’s Nice That, “I was researching projects to shoot on the internet when I came across Artistic Rollerskating by chance.” Unsure what the sport entailed, Will went to a regional competition that is organised by the self-funded Federation of Artistic Rollerskating where he was “instantly drawn to the sport and its surrounding community.”
Though the sport isn’t recognised by the Olympic body, the enthusiasm around the rollerskating community is prevalent in the proud portraits that Will captures. The elaborately detailed costumes, white polished wheels and carefully-applied makeup, provides an insight into the professionalism of the participants that regard artistic rollerskating as highly as the Olympics-worthy figure skating events. Through fundraising events and a few other means, the sport has maintained its niche community with the support of its self-funded clubs and the Federation. Will’s portraits document this DIY devotion to the sport and his photographs elevate the school sports hall surroundings that host the regional rollerskating competitions to something much grander. Will records the beauty of the straight rubber lines of various games courts applied onto the glossy veneered floor and candidly photographs the proud representatives of the artistic rollerskating community.
Will explains, “As a photographer, the project really spoke to me visually.” The optical feasts within “the pastel colours of the 1970s gyms” inspired the photographer to express the skaters’ portraits against the rich and velvety backdrops that hark back to a vintage aesthetic. Previously photographing for the likes of Wonderland, Esquire and Google, Will whole-heartedly fulfils his intentions to document the skaters’ stories in a new light, bringing his professionalism with the camera to the underground scene of artistic rollerskating. He concludes, “I hope my images do the club justice and provide the sport with a voice that it may not have had before.”
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