Striking Gold

Ward strikes photography gold with second series of Calgary Rage images

After compiling a remarkable and groundbreaking portfolio featuring the women of the Calgary Rage in 2013, the highly talented Candice Ward returned for a superlative encore in 2014. Employing a different yet unique approach, Ward immortalizes a group of the Rage’s gridiron goddesses through a series of heartwarming yet captivating images.

Merging the worlds of football and the interests that drive the players off the field, the end result was the display of a softer yet equally powerful side to the personalities of women’s football in Calgary. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the second series is that each player that was photographed, while engaging in their personal interests, was captured in full uniform.

As one of the rising stars in sports photography, Ward is quickly emerging as a fixture at Calgary Stampeders’ contests, capturing the action in superlative fashion. The chance to work with the women who proudly represent Calgary on the gridiron was a labour of love that Ward sincerely enjoyed,

“Working with the Rage combines my love of shooting sports and supporting female athletes. It is hard for female leagues to get the attention that many male leagues do. I also enjoy the women on the team. They are very supportive of each other and the work that I do.”

Second year player Esther Hong not only participated, but served as an assistant to Candice for the other player’s photo shoots. The opportunity to work with such a highly talented photographer was nothing short of a valued time for Hong, “Candice and I have become good friends and I just enjoying hanging out with her period! Yet, I love to watch her work and to be part of the magic she captures. She makes it look so easy.”

Of note, Hong’s photo, decked out in full uniform on top of a motorcycle, while Calgary’s cityscape adorns the background is a breathtaking shot. Hong looked like a movie action hero, ready to roar through the screen. In commenting on her image, Hong was satisfied with the outcome, testament to Ward’s amazing gifts as a photographer,

“Candice makes me look amazing (laughs)! I am always thrilled with the results in any project I have been a part of with her. Being a graphic designer and working in print, I really understand the value of a good picture!! When you have amazing materials to work it, it makes my job so much easier to create awesome products! Yet, aside from her talents, Candice is an amazing person inside and out and I am glad she’s a part of my life!”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Ward is equally graceful in recognizing the contributions of Hong in making this project a reality. The collaboration of this dynamic duo is evidence of the value of teamwork and the rewards that can follow,

“Esther was beyond instrumental in making this project happen. From doing the leg work with the board to get approvals, helping me to get the girls to volunteer, to holding lights and hauling gear, she really deserves a lot of the credit. I think the most important thing she contributed was her patience. She is really about team effort and she looks for any opportunity to help promote this team of outstanding women.”

In addition to Hong, nine other remarkable women from the Calgary Rage participated. Adorned in full uniform, the subjects covered a diverse range of topics, from engaging in farm work to skateboarding, from a life-drawing class to sharing the spotlight by being photographed with their children, it would prove to be a special experience.

Amanda McKenna, a fellow second-year player was actually the first player that Ward photographed. The photo shoot displayed another aspect to her athletic life. A highly conditioned athlete, McKenna also participates in Mixed Martial Arts training. Committing to such a regime is evidence of the toughness and endurance that a determined McKenna brings to the gridiron. Armed with a winning smile, McKenna was photographed while a fellow MMA trainer was simulating a series of moves. Through it all, McKenna appears calm and collective, doing so almost nonchalantly,

“I know the girl that I was working with and knew she would not intentionally hit me. With that in mind, it is easy to stay focused. Yes, I loved my photos as always. Candice is very talented and always takes excellent shots. She knows what she is looking for and takes various shots to get the perfect results.”

Such results were also evident when Ward photographed Jennifer MacLean. A speedy wide receiver with a varied interest in sport, a stoic confidence but innocent playfulness came across in her photos. Showing her fun side, MacLean was photographed in full uniform while gliding across on her skateboard.

Among the players that compose the roster of the Rage, Ferne Lavers is part of a unique group of pioneering female footballers. Having played in both the Maritime Women’s Football League and the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, it is a rare accomplishment that has resulted in truly experiencing the game’s growth from a coast-to-coast level.

An avid animal lover, she was accompanied in the photos by her pride and joy, her dog Myles, revealing a gentler side. For Ferne, one of the veteran leaders for the Rage, the chance to work with Candice again was one that she truly enjoyed,

“I was really excited to work with Candice again. I loved her work last year, not just my photos, but every girl on the team. I was also excited that we were doing something a little different this year.”

As a side note, she was not the only Rage player photographed with an animal. Veteran safety Tatrina Medvescek-Valentine is a farm wife based out of Okotoks, Alberta. Also a surface land analyst, the photos were taken on a rainy day at her farm.

Photographed with Nacho, the pet name for her mule, the inclement weather could not hamper Ward’s vision. Even working in rain-soaked conditions, the theme for Ward’s work is fun. Proud of her farm, the opportunity to be in front of Ward’s lens was a unique bonding experience, which solidified the pride she has in her animals.

“The animals are funny because they almost seem like they sometimes pose, because they want to look stunning with you. Animals are a huge part of my life and I think they tell so much about a person. Being captured with them will be memories I have forever. Nacho can be just that, “an ass”, but sometimes, I think his character was portrayed beautifully in Candace’s pictures. He is a good friend!!

Jordan Chappell, a linebacker for the squad recently experienced a personal milestone when she became a library technician. Taking into account that the photo shoot took part in a library, Chappell was proudly portrayed in her Rage uniform. It would prove to be a meaningful experience for Chappell, as the amalgamation of football and career, especially the opportunity to engage in her career of choice reflect empowerment,

“It was very meaningful, as both football and the library/books are passions of mine. Being a third generation librarian, I have been involved with the library and books my whole life, which has only deepened my passion for them. Since starting with the Rage, playing football has opened a new chapter in my passion for the game, showing me a way to route pent-up energy and aggression and enjoy my favourite sport to the fullest.”

Another important off-field interest for the women of the Calgary Rage is family. Sue Childress, one of the first superstars in Alberta women’s football was photographed with her son and daughter. Having both followed in her athletic footsteps, it was truly one of the more heartwarming aspects of Ward’s captivating portfolio.

Pam Buccini was another proud member of the Rage who opted to be photographed with family. Buccini, who is also a talented hair dresser, had her son Malik in the barber’s chair. The opportunity to involve her son in the photo shoot was of great meaning to her,

“It meant a lot to me that Malik was able to be included in the photo shoot. He loves the fact that I play football and has always been such a great sport with me having to sacrifice time away from him to practice and play. He has become part of the team also with the type of relationships he’s developed with my teammates.”

Upon seeing the finished product her son was absolutely ecstatic. “Yes, when I showed him the photos he just got that big grin of his on his face. As much as he says he doesn’t like getting his picture taken… I think he still likes the attention.”

Also sitting in the chair was Lisa Gomes, a running back for the Rage who also engages in work as a project administrator. Instead of a barber’s chair, Gomes was fearlessly in the chair of a tattoo artists. For those who have played with her, they know that her arms are adorned in some eye-catching body art. Ward tapped into the artistic theme by photographing Gomes with a tattoo artist from Enso Tattoo on 17th Avenue. It would prove to be a fun experience for Gomes, who enjoyed the opportunity to work with Ward again,

“I love how care-free Candice is! She makes me feel completely comfortable and has fun with the photo shoots. I am always the one smiling a ton in photos so it was nice to change it up with a tough girl act. I am already excited for her to plan another one! The pictures turned out great! My family and friends were totally impressed. It was definitely a success!”

On the topic of art, Alyssa Quinney is a highly talented graphic artist whose career is in web developing, design and illustration. With an appreciation for all things visual, one of her hobbies is life drawing classes. Such a class involves the drawing of models in a state of undress. When the concept of photographing her experience in the life drawing class was proposed, Quinney reflected on the reaction,

“I actually really loved the idea of the life drawing shoot but I had no idea how we could pull it off (with undressed people and all), so at first I suggested we do something else. We eventually came back to the life drawing class idea and I am glad we did because it turned out so well. Candice had a vision for that shoot and she pulled it off perfectly.”

Another member of the Rage with a keen eye behind the lens participated in the photo shoot. Donning number 50 with the Rage, Sandy Lawlor (who is also an office administrator) participated in a photoshoot with Ward. An avid filmmaker, perhaps one day she will produce a documentary on the Rage players, akin to The Tackle Girls, a film released last summer about the IFAF Women’s Worlds.

Having already worked with Ward last year, many of the players have developed a sense of trust, comfort and friendship. The mutual respect is one that certainly makes the experience a special one. Many of the players share their feelings on what they like best about working with Candice Ward.

Jordan Chappell: Yes, I very much enjoy working with Candice. She does amazing work and always snaps the perfect shot.

Ferne Lavers: “I enjoy how easy she makes everything look and the pictures just turn out amazing! She definitely makes you feel at ease and I also love her support for the Calgary Rage!”

Tatrina Medvescek-Valentine: “I cannot say enough good things about Candace. She is absolutely amazing. She takes an ordinary day and plans just the most amazing shoots while transforming them into master pieces. Anytime I have worked with Candace once the shoot is done I wanna see the pictures the next minute because she makes you just love what you are doing that moment and that’s what taking pictures are all about ‘that moment’.”

Alyssa Quinney: “I think she knows that some people can feel a little nervous in front of a camera so she really is a natural at making you feel comfortable. She’s very easy going. You can really tell she loves what she does.”

With great ambition and a remarkable vision behind the lens, Ward approaches each project with tremendous pride and creativity. In a generation from now, it is possible that Ward’s remarkable portfolio of female football images may become as hallowed as those of famous baseball photographer Charles Conlon, whose images from the early 1900s captured the zeitgeist of what baseball meant to a growing fan base.

Although time (or lack of it) can provide an obstacle for Ward, she was very happy to find the time to preserve a remarkable aspect in the lives of Rage players, while capturing another unique feature to their personalities,

“I think up photo project ideas all the time and rarely have time to follow many of them through. Sometimes they just end up being one subject or one photo. Other times, like this one, I manage to get the time to follow them through from start to finish.

I would have really liked to have shot more of the women at work, but there was just too much red tape in the short time frame that we had. Each woman had a very diverse set of interests and careers. I really wanted to show that, but yet show how they all come together under the Rage name.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photos are copyright of Candice Ward Photography

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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