Feature: Oli Burley
AS A boy I used to save up my pocket-money to buy Patrick Eagar’s
latest book at the end of each summer, so inevitably the cricket
photographer is intrinsically linked to my childhood memories
of the game.
When I mention this to him, surrounded by a new exhibition of
his career’s work in the Lord’s museum,
the celebrated snapper looks almost mortified, as if I’ve
just spilt scalding coffee on his trigger finger.
Thankfully, my cup is still full and it dawns on me that inadvertently
I have stumbled upon the very essence of ‘Marylebone
Cricket Club, 33 years and 50 tests through the lens of Patrick
This microcosmic collection – the product of a career spanning
at least ½ million negatives – is much more a tribute
to one self-effacing man than a celebration of a ground rich in
heroes and tradition.
"I felt it was important to give a sense of the past but
also look to the future," says Eagar, as he scans the exhibition,
erasing years of work in one breath. "I couldn’t tell
you which decade is best represented."
Equally, I am none the wiser as the prints are hung non-chronologically
in half-a-dozen sections, ranging from the ‘Gallery of Greats’
to ‘An Eye on Lord’s’, that invite cricketing
and photographic comparisons.
Inevitably, in an Ashes summer, I am drawn instinctively to the
pictures – arranged around the urn itself – that capture
some of the great moments of Anglo-Australian clashes.
Two envelop me in particular; the Australian colossus, Steve
Waugh, commanding in defence in 1989, his perfect poise a complete
contrast to the umpire, Dickie Bird, typically nervous and angular.
For sheer dignity, though, Kim Hughes
captivates; with complete control he square-drives during the
1980 Centenary Test, the blurred tip of his blade too slick for
the transparency speed.
The image proves the importance of timing, on and off the pitch;
anyone can take a picture, but few can truly capture the moment.
As if to underline this, each image in the collection is accompanied
by a simple, informative caption. The Lord’s pavilion is
at its best, we are told, before 11am when morning sunlight shines
on its terracotta face.
Meanwhile, we learn that the image of Michael Atherton, run out
for 99 in 1993, was taken by a remote control camera as Eagar
could not capture the stranded player and the stumps in the same
These insights help to garnish Eagar’s own keen sense of
The names of Warwick Armstrong and Victor Trumper, scratched
into the players’ balcony at Lord’s in 1899 and 1902
respectively, are given a mischievous context by a deep, respectful
backdrop of the ground.
Similarly, the iconic Father Time weather vane hanging helpless
and inverted as it is moved to a new position in 1996 acts as
a vivid reminder that for all of cricket’s history, it remains
just a game.
For some, the skills of that sport – as the pictures of
the Bedsers, Chappells and Hollioakes prove in the ‘Cricketing
Genes’ section – come all too naturally.
Meanwhile, the rest of us with cricket in our blood are indebted
to Eagar – whether he likes it or not – for his dedication
and ability to capture it so masterfully.
The Exhibition, at Lord’s Cricket Ground, officially opens
on June 7 and is expected to run until the end of 2005. Visitors
will be able to purchase tickets throughout the year, on match
and non-match days.
for more details about the museum.
A book, entitled Marylebone Cricket Club, 33 years and 50
tests through the lens of Patrick Eagar, will accompany the