Putting the Nation on Stage

WANDERLAND

February 6, 2017

Western Sydney Wanderers photographs by Eric Berry

To celebrate Smurf In Wanderland this April, a must-see show for football and theatre fans, National Theatre of Parramatta will be presenting a collection of Western Sydney Wanderers photographs by award-winning sports photographer Eric Berry. WANDERLAND will be showcased at Riverside Theatres from the 4th to the 29th April.

Best-known for his award-winning photography of the Western Sydney Wanderers and its passionate fans, Eric Berry has a wide-ranging resume as a photographer and photo-journalist going back over twenty years. It was the rise and rise of the Western Sydney Wanderers, combined with Eric’s love for the club, which propelled him into the local and international sport photography spotlight, culminating in being announced as the inaugural FourFourTwo Magazine Photographer of the Year in 2015, chosen by Australia’s football fans. His work has been used around the globe, from Europe to the Americas to Asia.

We spoke to Eric about his love for photography, his passion for football and Smurf In Wanderland.

How did you become a photographer?
My Late Grandfather got me interested as a kid. I started as a part-time photo-journalist for a specialist Firefighting Magazine in the early 1990’s, along with being a volunteer fire-fighter. I did that for several years on the side, then had to put it on the back-burner as my “day job” took over all my time. On moving into the fire service full-time in 2003, it again became part of my every day, and I often got special assignments with the camera. When I left the fire service in 2012 it seemed natural to transition into photography more-or-less full-time.

What has drawn you to sports photography?
I love football, or soccer as some heathens refer to it, and would often spend Saturdays and Sundays shooting my sons playing for the local club side. After doing that for a while, I got involved early on with the formation of the Western Sydney Wanderers, initially as just a member. Increasingly I would also be at various events with a camera, so I got noticed as having photos of everything, and so I was often the source that lots of people and organisations turned to.

My love of football drove me to become the best I could at shooting the sport. The response from fans, magazines, players and others who appreciate my work continually motivates me.

You have a diverse background in photography and your images range from live action shots to portraits and editorial. Can you elaborate a bit on the type of work you do, especially in regards to your forensic work.
I love people, I love the creative process and I love a challenge. Several times I have been challenged by colleagues or family to try something different and, mostly, I’ve really enjoyed not only the experience but also the results. As much as I love the game, I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as just a football photographer, so I keep trying new things whenever I get the chance.

I enjoy portrait and fashion photography, both in the studio and on location, for a range of labels and brands. I do commercial and advertising photography, in Australia and overseas, and of course theatrical photography and theatre promotions!

I first became interested in forensic imaging during my time in the fire service. It started with photographing incidents and the aftermath, especially for working out how a particular event happened. I started studying how photography was used in fire investigation and crime scenes, the history of forensic imaging, and it all grew from that.

I’ve been lecturing in digital Forensic Photography at Western Sydney University for a few years now, and developing specialist crime scene imaging courses for the future.

You have also done a variety of production shoots for National Theatre of Parramatta, where does your interest in theatre stem from?
I have to blame my mother for this. From as young as I can remember, she was involved in amateur productions with the local theatre company. I got involved in productions at school and although I’m not much of an actor myself, I love live theatre. It’s creative storytelling in a way that can be simple or complex, yet reaches inside and massages our emotions – or our funny bone.

I have great admiration for both the actors and their abilities, and the downright hard yakka put in by the crews. Seeing a story come to life is a special kind of magic for me.

What is your favourite Wanderers’ moment?
The morning we won the Asian Champions League. I was covering the live site in Parramatta for FourFourTwo Magazine, as well as wanting to be there just as a fan. The atmosphere, despite it being the wee hours before dawn on a chilly morning, was incredible. Thousands and thousands of people sitting on the concrete, watching a temporary screen at the front of the Parra Council, riding an emotional roller coaster together. When the final whistle went, it was like all my birthdays had come at once! I forgot all about shooting for a few minutes and just joined in the celebrations with my “Wanderers Family”.

Why do you think people should catch Smurf in Wanderland?
If you love football, you should see it. The internal struggle within the mind of a hapless Smurf, witnessing the amazing juggernaut that is The Wanderers, is both emotional and funny. It’s one man’s journey that most football fans can identify with. It’s pure football storytelling at its best, with plenty of banter and self-depreciation.

If you love theatre, you should see it. David Williams is a funny bastard who can translate sport into art, and take you somewhere you might not have imagined. There’s less flare smoke than a Wanderers’ game, but it will give you a guilty glimpse into the mind of the true die-hard football fan.

Mostly you should catch this show because it’s different. Less script, more true thoughts and real emotions.

Plus, let’s face it, you can come along and see some of my work too! Who knows, you might even like to purchase a special something for your wall.