Having worked with the Calgary Rage of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL) for the past three seasons, photographer Candice Ward has developed a remarkable and impressive portfolio. In addition to a stunning series of action shots that add a remarkable major league feeling to the gridiron action, Ward has also engaged in the task of creating an annual series of portraits featuring the women of the Rage.
Considering that the Rage are breaking barriers in football, creating a proud new chapter for sporting equality in Western Canada, it is only fitting that one of their biggest supporters is doing the same. As sports photography is traditionally a male-dominated profession, Ward is helping change conventional thinking.
For the 2015 series of portraits, Ward employed a much different approach. Titled “I play tackle football because…”, each player was requested to include a quote on why they play football. Said quote was featured on the bottom of the photo, along with the players name and number. Ward stated online what her objectives were at this year’s shoot,
“This year, I wanted to capture this women a little more natural and realistic to how they look after they play. These photos were all shot right after their rainy home opener win over the Edmonton Steel on the May long weekend. When I say right after, I mean, still in their gear, sweaty and not made up.
Many still had helmet hair, impressions of the helmet on their foreheads and swollen hands from making big plays. Each one of these women exude an impressive level of confidence and it really shows through their photos.”
Ward resourcefully assembles a series of inspired photographs that meets with praise from the 19 Rage players that were willing to be immortalized in front of her lens. The end result was a captivating series of black and white portraits which perfectly captured the essence of female football.
Emerging from the gridiron with part adrenaline, part grace, the women of football are genuine. Coming off an encouraging win against their archrival Edmonton Storm, such a series of portraits only helps to build team morale and build momentum.
Among the members of the Rage roster that were part of Ward’s third series of portraits, Holly Arthur had never worked with Ward before. Having relocated to Alberta for career-related purposes, she had previously competed with the Halifax Xplosion of the Maritime Women’s Football League.
Having also worked in a front-office capacity with the Xplosion, Arthur’s strong work ethic and determination makes her a welcome member of the Rage. Adding to Arthur’s jubilation is the fact that new teammate Ferne Lavers once competed in the MWFL, helping to make her introduction to the Rage more meaningful. In reflecting on her first experience with Ward, it was part of a positive transition to a new league and new team,
“Being new to the city and the Rage team, this was my first time working with Candice. She made everything so easy for us and told us exactly what to do for the shots to come out great. Before working with her I saw some of her photos she took of the Rage girls last year and was really hoping I would get an opportunity to have some amazing photographs myself from her. Candice seems to really have a great eye for things and I cannot wait to see what pictures arise after a whole season this spring and summer.”
Having worked with Ward during her first series of portraits in 2013, Erin Walton is very familiar with her creative abilities. A pioneer for football in Western Canada, Walton competed with the Canadian contingent at the 2010 and 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships.
Having temporarily stepped away from active play in 2014, Walton remained faithful to the team by serving on the coaching staff. Back on the gridiron this year, stepping in front of Ward’s camera was among one of the early season highlights. Like other veterans on the Rage, Walton is proud of Ward’s contributions,
“She is someone who we can count on to support us on and off the field and she is a pleasure to work with! She is also very creative and fun which makes it a comfortable and engaging experience all around. We are very lucky to have such a talented artist support our team and helps to showcase who we are year in and year out!”
As the starting quarterback for the Rage, Ashley Kellsey-Shoemaker was happy to have Ward contribute such remarkable work with the Rage once again. In her second season with the Rage, Kellsey-Shoemaker brings an even more profound appreciation of the game, complemented by a maturity that shows traces of leadership,
“Candice is awesome. She makes time in her busy schedule to come and do our game day photos and portfolio shots. She is super laid back and easy to work with. Candice is one of those people that is really encouraging.
She makes you feel excited about the photo shoot, and cannot wait to see her vision come together. We are very lucky to have her as a part of the Rage family.”
Ward’s portraits are helping to catalyze the sport, telling a tale solidly in the Canadian grain, an important part of the incipient mythology of the Calgary Rage. Revealing how football unites the women of the Rage, it adds meaning to the growing history of the WWCFL. Although Ward has never donned a helmet or a jersey, she is truly part of the team, displaying a commitment, while simultaneously representing an idealism that helps to instill the values of female football, built on hard work and mutual support.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”