This picture shows the ferocity of the game of rugby. Here are these giants of the sport — Alun Wyn Jones, Iain Henderson, Ross Moriarty, and Sam Warburton — battered, bruised and bleeding after the Lions played the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in 2017.
The four of them were coming off the back of a long club season, and yet they still approached this first game of the Tour with the same intensity as they would any other match.
They are shattered having left everything on the pitch for the jersey.
A picture like this is literally years in the making.
I covered my first Lions Tour for INPHO in 2009 and was so nervous to be right in the middle of all these world-famous players and household names.
It is a huge honour to be the official Lions photographer, but with that privilege comes great responsibility.
You are being allowed into their inner sanctuary to record their stories and the Tour.
The most important currency that a photographer can have in this situation is trust, the trust of the players, the coaches, and the management.
And you have to earn that over a prolonged period of time — that’s what I meant when I said that a picture like this one here is years in the making.
The players have to trust you enough to ignore you, if that makes sense.
You have to become another component of the dressing room on match day, not something that is alien to the scene.
But there is a duty of care too for the photographer to blend in as well. It is not like I am standing in the middle of the room shouting instructions and issuing orders. That is not what it is about — instead what you are trying to capture is the rawness, the realness of these guys. You have to be a fly on the wall, unseen. For this one, I was crouching underneath a table and I caught them just after the game as they were taking off their strappings and their gear.
You can’t get caught up in the moment. You respect them, you have to keep your head in the lens and not let the experience overwhelm you.
The picture got a great reaction afterwards and was a medal winner at the 2018 PPAI Awards. The lads in the shot also sent me messages afterwards to compliment me. That meant the world to me.”
: Colm O’Connor