At whatever level it’s played, rugby has always been about passion. You need it to be able to step on to the pitch, you need it to run struggling amateur clubs and you need it to referee.
Now, following the publication of The Heart And The Art Of My Rugby Photography, nobody can doubt photographer Paul Hart’s passion for the oval ball.
Hart has spent his weekends chronicling both rugby league and union in his native Wales, from amateur and student league matches through to full internationals and fixtures at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
The result is a fascinating trawl through Welsh rugby’s last six years, with an equal focus on both codes despite Hart hailing from a country where the 15-a-side game is still king.
Among the treasures included in this weighty hardback is a black and white snap of Ben and Rhys Evans, decked out in Wales rugby league gear, from October 17, 2009, as well as an action shot of Rhys playing for Wales U16s in the same year.
But the highlight is surely a fascinating chapter focusing on Welsh rugby grounds, where every picture looks like a shot from the recent Sky One series ‘Stella’, with local communities still at the heart of the game and Wales’s rolling hills in the backdrop.
Hart has taken in 193 matches since 2007, each meticulously listed at the back of the book, to complete surely one of the most comprehensive visual records of the game in any country.
His favourite picture, at the very back of the book, is not from a high-profile international. Instead, it shows Dan Henderson of UWIC rugby league 2nds kicking a goal against Swansea rugby league.
What makes the shot isn’t Hart’s timing, but Henderson’s team-mate, Jake Duffy, posing for the camera in the background. It perfectly illustrates how Hart has made himself a part of the scenery at rugby grounds across Wales, allowing him to create some truly individual shots.
For Hart, the game is the same whether played at the Millennium Stadium or a local park. He says: “From the outside the two areas may seem worlds apart, but they really aren’t that different; the passion is the same.”
(This review first appeared in the September 2012 issue of Forty-20 magazine.)