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Making the Super League: “I remember thinking if all photos end up like this, I’m going to really enjoy it here.” 

Taken during the Netball Super League game between Loughborough Lightning and Leeds Rhinos at the Sir David Wallace Arena, Loughborough, England on 19th March 2023.

Morgan Harlow’s first experience with netball was cold and clinical, but the freelance photographer has realised the community is anything but. 

Now in her third season shooting for England Netball, Harlow looks back fondly on her first assignment in the sport – a crowdless Loughborough Lightning match at Studio 001 in the midst of the pandemic.   

Just like the sport, Harlow’s career has gone from strength to strength, and the former competitive swimmer treasures a photo from that day which reminds her how far she has come.  

Harlow said: “It was so weird to see a sporting event take place behind the scenes. There were no fans, everyone was wearing masks and it was such a surreal experience for everyone.

“I took a photo of Mary Cholhok as she was warming up. There were beautiful neon lights and that sums up my start in netball because it was a weird environment with no fans, but it made for lovely clean backdrops.

“She was the one player that stood out to me from the whole team, and I knew then that this was the sport I wanted to get involved with.

“I remember thinking if all photos end up like this, I’m going to really enjoy it here.”  

As a young woman in a male-dominated industry, Harlow relishes working in an environment filled with so many strong female colleagues, especially when she was just finding her feet. 

Harlow said: “Coming out of university and going straight into the industry was a little bit daunting.

“My first realisation as to what a male-dominated area it was, was when I went to an athletics event in Birmingham and there were about 40 photographers there.

“I was one of only three females there which was interesting to see. 

“There’s a lot of female staff in netball which I think is really lovely to work with and bounce ideas off in that kind of working environment.” 

Working in such a pressurised field, Harlow often has to get her elbows out when it comes to capturing moments of sporting brilliance but has found her size often works to her advantage in those situations. 

“I think sports photography in itself, whether it’s male or female, is a very competitive industry so jostling for a position to get that photo is always going to be a task but sometimes you’ve just got to stand your ground,” said Harlow. 

“It is just about having that confidence to say I’m going to be here the same as everyone else, so we’ll have to work with it and if you don’t like it, tough, I’m going to be there anyway.”

And despite visibility for the sport making huge strides since Harlow has been involved, the SJA award-shortlisted photographer believes its full potential is yet to be unlocked.

“It would be nice to see netballers get a bit more credit, even though it has been put on TV,” said Harlow.

“More people talking about it on Instagram, talking about it on the news, on the radio and getting the credit it deserves because it’s a really good sport.

“A lot more people should be involved in it.

“It shouldn’t just be women watching it because it’s a female-dominated sport. If you watch it, you’ll realise how good it is compared to all the other sports.”

Harlow has a message for any young budding photographers thinking about diving into the world of netball.

“Get involved on social media,” said Harlow. “Everyone is really friendly in the England netball world I find. Get in contact any which way that you can.

“It’s just a close-knit community that’s open to branching out and making more friends in that environment.”

The Netball Super League’s spotlight series Strong Women Supporting Strong Women: Making the Super League will continue throughout April to celebrate some of the women behind the scenes of the league, who are driving netball forward boldly, unapologetically and fearlessly. You can read more stories here

Follow the Netball Super League on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. Keep up with all the latest news by signing up to the NSL newsletter here. 

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