Martin Hartley


Few people connect with the beauty and brutality of Mother Nature in the same way that Martin Hartley has. Immerse yourself in his world, from what it's like to watch his toes turn black with 99 more days to go on an expedition to sneaking the FA Cup to the South Pole.

#Adventure of the FA Cup, From the South Pole to Wembley Final

I’m not a football fan. A long time ago I was, and I diverted my emotional energy to be fanatical about photography instead. But when I was assigned to document the adventure of the FA Cup all the way through to the Semi Final and Final at Wembley Stadium, I found myself as emotionally tied up as the fans in all the action, just another face of it.  Awe, disgust, ecstasy, anger, amazement, contempt, rage, exhilaration, and pride unraveled 90,000 fans strong, and I was in the heart of it all. This was a fascinating assignment, and the high fives and middle fingers thrown my way was just part of the adventure.

Also known as ‘the beautiful game,’ it’s the greatest unrehearsed theatre known to man, and has the power to  release every known emotion. Winners and losers, love and hate, battles between David and Goliath grace the field and the stands every weekend of the season. The fans of this drama are dedicated spectators who love their heroes. The difference between theatre and the football stadium:  on the field the script is unwritten.  Winners and losers are at every match, both on and off the pitch.

Finger wagging, chest beating, mental breakdowns, white-knuckled tension, quiet tears. It’s fascinating to witness the intensity of emotion that shows up in the stadium that lays dormant in our everyday lives. Some of my closest friends barely crack a smile when I know they are bursting inside with happiness, but when their team runs out onto the pitch at an FA Cup qualifying round and especially the FA Cup Final, this is a an emotional game changer, and they give themselves permission to let go.

Inside the stadium the human condition is supercharged, and emotions are permitted to unravel.

The power of the collective crowd cannot be underestimated. The context of the emotion and adrenalin of the prehistoric, primeval hunt are now projected onto the pitch. Whether united in sport or divided by team, the FA Cup football and the impact on the fans was what I was there to capture.

Few events bring up emotion like the FA Cup. When virtually every single person in the stadium and across the UK was obsessing, their eyes and hearts glued to the teams, I saw nothing of the game. My hunt was to seek out and to shoot the heart of the fans, which surfaced momentarily on their faces. I never saw the any of the game, not a player not even the football not for a second. I began to learn, by the volume of expression where the football was on the pitch, I could feel the tension in my body as the roar of the crowd grew. I too began to get sucked in by the feelings running rampant in the stadium.

The real entertainment was real and was right there, right across all the faces and bodies of the 90,000 strong crowd watching the battle.

There were so many fantastic parts of this assignment, including taking the FA Cup on a different kind of adventure than it had seen in its over 140-year history: a visit to Antarctica and the South Pole, penguins included. After documenting the adventure of the Cup I was heading to the South Pole the following week, so off the cuff suggested it to the FA, and they said yes! Caring for this national treasure in the coldest place on earth was a bit stressful, and absolutely epic. The #FACupAdventure was taken up a notch!

Explore more photographs of the FA Cup Adventure in the VAULT.