Beyond the Boundary: Nick Compton

Inspired to capture his surroundings as he toured the world, the former England cricketer celebrates his debut photography exhibition now showing at the Maddox Gallery in Mayfair

Arts 9 Nov 2018

When and where did you start taking pictures?

With Dad [former cricketer Richard Compton] growing up in South Africa, doing a number of trips into rural areas and game reserves – he was very involved with nature conservation as a wildlife TV presenter and working in PR. He always interacted and connected well with people and the aesthetics of South Africa. I used to play with his camera and practise taking pictures.

Did you teach yourself or were there photographers that you admired and wanted to emulate?

My dad and mum have very good taste. My mum is an artist and my dad always liked to present people in their most natural state. Making people feel comfortable is a real skill. I admired Steve McCurry and now David Yarrow.

Why did you decide to exhibit your work?

I felt the connection between my career in sport and photography – the two have many similarities. That ability to find that great picture at a given moment is a bit like playing that perfect shot. It gave me a feeling of real connection and excitement.

I also felt that the opportunities cricket afforded me in terms of travel and experience were incredible. Cricket and watching people develop through the game has always been an interest, but I preferred to explore the countries I was visiting rather than sit in the hotels. I want to showcase my work – it’s a passion and something I would like to explore further.

Did it help you escape the pressures of professional cricket?

I took my performance seriously and often it would dictate my life, my mood and happiness. I found it hard to escape the ups and downs. Getting out of my own head was best done through a lens. The freedom of getting out, so to speak, travelling, going down random streets and just “having a go” is what made me feel alive away from a sport that can often be very prescribed and limiting. It’s pressured and monotonous at times. Practise, training and games can often be quite formulaic. I had a high-pressure role in teams, I took it upon myself to be the one the team depended on, the guy that held the batting together. I liked that role but it was intense and my standards were high. Escapism and meeting new people captivated my imagination. I love meeting people; finding out about their lives and journeys was interesting.

Do your teammates also have an escape of their own?

Yes, in different ways. Alastair Cook – my England captain and one of the greatest England players of all time – lives on a farm and milks the cows.

Do you have a favourite image from your collection?

I took a picture of a young Nepalese girl in Kathmandu before we played the highest-ever game of cricket at base camp. Her smile in that moment was so special. The Indian subcontinent is so visually encapsulating and I love the people there.

Do you seek out a good photograph or is it an instinctive spur of the moment thing?

A bit of both but I trust my eye and my ability to see something. That’s the instinct that makes it a freedom of sorts. It’s instinctive and it’s about following that instinct and doing what it takes to get the image. Sometimes it won’t please everyone but I like that adrenalin rush.

Do the people in the pictures – such as the children playing cricket – know you are a professional cricketer?

Not always! I tried to do it on the down-low. Sometimes I would play with them and that was a lot of fun.

Do you have any plans for more photography exhibitions?

Yes, for sure. I think photography is a great message, it explores people’s imaginations and it makes people get out of the regulations that society puts on us today. Convention can be very limiting and I think photography has so many great stories and similarities with business and life. I hope I can share this passion and help others.

Beyond the Boundary by Nick Compton, 7–14 November 2018 at Maddox Gallery, 9 Maddox Street, London W1S 2QE;