“So you guys are going to be like paparazzi, firing off your flash and taking paparazzi shots from the red carpet” the event representative shared. We were a group of photographers gathered outside the Singapore Indoor Stadium, being briefed on the red carpet pre-event for One Championship: Pride of Lions.
I had signed up as part of an open-call on Canon’s Facebook, under the assumption that I would get a chance to be at ringside, or at least near enough to the ring to capture the action.
After all, an excerpt from the official open-call invite sent to photographers read as follows: “In this event, you will have the chance to take photographs of the VIPs at its red carpet area and capture the jaw-dropping MMA fighting scenes from the walkway right after.”
On hindsight, I believe that the intention of the organiser was to create a facade of glamour at the event – with multiple flashes firing off at the red carpet- rather than any legitimate concern about the quality of photography; the comment about photographers’ being paparazzi should have been an early warning sign.
I believe that most of the photographers invited weren’t fazed about being called paparazzi; the ones I encountered seemed more interested in shooting (and talking to) the event girls than the Mixed Martial Artists. While they were chatting up the event models, Japanese Fighter Kotetsu Boku walked right past us. No one blinked an eyelid. Shortly after, Welterweight Champion Ben Askren, together with Middleweight Champion Vitaly Bigdash, exited from a vehicle that had stopped in front of us, talking to one another.
I rushed over and asked if I could take a photo of them together. Ben Askren smiled. “Yeah, why not?”
The rest of the photographers started flocking around us. “Hey dude,” one of them called out to the Welterweight Champion. “Could you look over here for a second?”
After Ben Askren left, we were herded into the stadium to shoot the fights.
This is where the excerpt from the email lived up to its promise: My jaw dropped. The distance of recommended shooting space from the ring was roughly 14.5 metres, or half the size of a basketball court. Which made it near impossible for me to get a good shot even with my 70-200mm zoom lens.
This is how I closed that 14.5 meters without a media pass.
1. BLEND IN
Most crew members wear plain black-T-Shirts to achieve an “invisible” look. You may want to dress similarly.
I’m sure you have heard or seen or read this several times before, but I want to affirm that the walk of confidence is real: Walk like you’ve been there before, act like you know where you’re walking to and don’t bother trying to look serious. In fact, you may want to smile.
2. FEIGN DISTRACTION
While walking past the first layer of security, I asked the personnel a simple question: “Hey, how’s it going?” A question begs a response, but by the time the security personnel attempts to reply, chances are that you’ve already walked past, and thus deflected any questions about access.
The “I’m rushing and worried about something” look worked on the second level of security. I pulled out my phone and started to go through one of my texts. When I was greeted by the security, I smiled, said “Hey” and walked right through, pretending that I was meeting someone in the media holding area.
3. GET AWAY FROM THE CROWD
Your first instinct will be to follow the crowd, but crowds may fuck up your opportunity by saying something stupid, pissing off the subject, or putting the security on high alert.
4. HUNKER DOWN
Once I was in, I knew I had to hold my shit together. Literally. A trip to the toilet for a piss or a dump would run you the risk of getting barred from re-entry.
5. UNDERSTAND THE SPACE
I was now in the media holding pen, with the official media houses, an accompanying buffet spread, and an unobstructed view of the Octagon.
At this point, if I had been legitimately invited to cover the event, I’d be looking around for a space to stand and get some decent images. I had a 70-200mm zoom lens, sufficient to frame my subject from head to toe from my vantage point near the side of the Octagon, but my field of view was blocked by a middle-aged videographer.
I noticed that the space between his camcorder and the table was good enough to squeeze myself though. Since I’d made it that far, I thought I might as well bet all my chips on this last hand.
6. ASK FOR PERMISSION
I lightly tapped the videographer on his shoulder and hollered over the booming music in the background. “Hello! Sorry to bother you, is it possible to allow me some space here to take some photographs?”
“No worries boy,” he replied, after a 2 second wait that felt like 2 hours. “In fact you can stay in that spot till the whole event is over. As long my tripod isn’t moved it’s all good.”
He offered me a ham and cheese croissant from the media buffet spread. His name, I learnt, was Uncle J. I came clean during our chat, and told him that I didn’t possess a media pass, and that this was my first time gatecrashing a fight event.
“Exciting isn’t it?” He said, with a knowing look. Which made me suspect that perhaps I wasn’t the only one in that pit who had gatecrashed an event before.
Here are some photos from my gatecrash of the media pit at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP – PRIDE OF THE LIONS. Enjoy!