Colin Lee (left) and Clive Walker celebrate a goal in Chelsea's 5-0 Division Two victory over Derby County at Stamford Bridge in 1983.
Deep in the Surrey commuter belt lies Cobham, site of Chelsea Football Club's training facilities and, since 2008, home of the ever-growing Chelsea Photographic Archive, which collects together images by photographers who have worked for the club over its long history.
The man charged with running the archive is Hugh Hastings, who has an intimate knowledge of the club's visual history having himself been its official photographer from 1977 - 1986. The vast majority of the images are currently in film format, so one of Hastings' big tasks is to scan them and embed full and accurate captions. The images are then uploaded on a daily basis onto the Chelsea FC photo intranet, an online database of images available for use in all of the Club's in-house media, including the website, match day programme, monthly magazine and, of course, by Chelsea TV. Most of the images in the archive are then also uploaded on to the Getty Images' website, where they can be purchased by the world's media.
'Darren (Walsh, the club's current fulltime photographer) has access to every training session and into many areas where the media are not usually permitted,' says Hastings. 'It's vital to Chelsea's photographers, and I think to building sustainable, stronger bonds between the players and the club's fans too. These images are very popular because they show the football club behind the scenes, and the players not just as performers who play a hard game once or twice a week in front of 40,000 plus spectators, but as young men with a demanding physical schedule, pursuing a career that is unpredictable and often very short-lived.
'It is a privileged glimpse behind the scenes, and it reflects the high level of access the club's photographers have always enjoyed,' he adds. 'Back in the 1970s I would travel with the team to away games, and I would use the same dressing room as the players to get changed into my waterproofs. I would often be stopped from returning to the dressing room after the game by the local stewards, because they couldn't believe that Chelsea would allow a photographer into the inner sanctum. But they did and Darren enjoys similar levels of access today.'
Football fans don't take kindly to being described as 'anoraks' but in truth there is a bit of the obsessive in all of us, and the Chelsea Photographic Archive addresses that craving in Blues fans. 'With the archive, the club is able to track back into its history and access images - many of which have never been published before - that have great resonance with the club's supporters. They show players they remember watching when they were younger, or Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, which has changed considerably, especially over the last 15 years. Football fans can be very nostalgic about their club's heritage and rightly so, as history plays an important role in how we feel about the club today.'
Each historical image used in the archive is given joint ownership status between the original photographer and Chelsea FC, providing the photographer with a potential income stream and the club with a growing library of images to call upon. 'It's not for us to say at this early stage but the archive might also have importance in the future as a social history project, documenting the life and times of a football club and its supporters,' says Hastings.
'Certainly in my time, football - at least as represented by the Premier League - has changed almost beyond recognition,' he adds. 'In the 1970s and 80s you would have to think very carefully about whether or not a football ground was a suitable place to bring your children; today, the atmosphere is a great deal more civilised - too much so for some people, who miss the edginess of fierce rivalry. We are also building a section of images just about Chelsea's typical fans, and it makes one of the most illuminating areas of the archive.'
Plus, it's not just the subject matter that has changed. 'The passing of years has seen many technical advances as well. Greatly improved floodlighting at games, terrific new digital and auto-focus capabilities in cameras are a million miles away from the push-processed, black-and-white and manual focus we used to do. But the old approach gives images of a certain age a real sense of time and place, which we are keen to preserve.'
The archive currently includes the work of former Chelsea lensmen John Ingledew, Francis Glibbery and Dave Shopland, as well as Hastings' and Walsh's images. But the archivist is still unsatisfied. 'I am always seeking new "old" Chelsea photographers for the archive,' he says. 'Not just those who have worked for the club, but other professionals who covered Chelsea games, especially in the post-war period up to 1977.'
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