Speaking to SA Cricket magazine, former England batsman Nick Compton opens up on pursuing a new path after his once-bright cricket career was brought to a heart-rending end, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
‘Work in the shade, live in the sun.’
The first phrase you’ll read on the Instagram page of Nick Compton, former South African-born and England cricketer.
Despite an emphatic first-class record that resulted in more than 10 000 runs in almost 20 County Championship seasons, the 36-year-old’s international stint might not have broken all the records the cricketing world will remember in the years to come.
His hard work and sacrifice on a cricket front from a very young age may not have favoured him to ‘live in the sun’ after spending a lot of time ‘in the shade’. This may seem ironic, given that his grandfather, Denis, played cricket for England and also won League and FA Cup titles with Arsenal Football Club.
Two centuries in 16 Test matches and series wins in India and South Africa are probably the biggest achievements in his four years as the 654th English Test cricketer.
The end of his time with the English national team brought a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety into his life.
A number of injuries, including a serious neck surgery, suddenly transported him to a place where life and future seemed blurred but he remained determined to move on with life.
‘I really struggled with my last few years and there were real issues,’ admits Compton, who is in lockdown with his parents in Knysna.
‘When I got dropped by England for the second time I went into quite a dark place and I found it really difficult to get out of it.’
But, his retirement in 2018 presented him with an opportunity to take a new route. Although the anxiety and what would come from it remained, he decided to delve back into the memories of his youth.
Born to a photographer father, and also a presenter on the former SABC wildlife show 50/50, and an artist mother, Compton was exposed to diverse cultures from a young age while living in Natal.
‘He [his dad] had a real eye and affinity to connect with different cultures. He took a lot of photos of people and I just remember him talking about how to make people feel relaxed in front of the camera and how to get the best out of them.’
Compton wanted to do the same and was up for a new life experience.
‘Getting away from cricket and trying to move on was a big aspect of going into photography for me. Growing up in a place like South Africa you are spoiled for diversity.’
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Get low and get dirty! if one thing is for certain there ain’t no Corona out here… hope everyone is safe at home . @jemsuglow . . #desertlife #photography #fineart #landscape #sossusvlei #wildlife #desert #leica #deadvlei #passion #travel #condenast #beautifuldestinations
Having spent most of his childhood in South Africa, before leaving for England at 15 in 1999 to take up a sports scholarship at Harrow School, the passion of exploring different cultures and new diverse backgrounds may have been vested in his subconscious.
Should you stumble upon Compton’s Instagram account nowadays, cricket memories and moments aren’t the dominant image load often seen on former sportstars’ accounts.
Nor is it swamped with pictures of children or family lifestyles but instead you’ll find landscapes, people, animals, objects – as ordinary as they come – all captured by his camera.
The former top-order batsman’s new passion is more about connecting with people from all walks of life, while bringing out raw emotion with the help of his lens.
‘I wasn’t someone who would sit in my hotel room and play Playstation all day. I wanted to really see and experience the countries that we were playing in. I wanted to create memories and there was an artistic side to it that I really enjoyed,’ he continues.
The picturesque topography of the African continent was the experimental ground he ventured on to next but having travelled to various corners of the globe during his cricketing career, Compton wanted to live in the moment and capture that moment without real planning – just the genuine moment.
Whether that was the ordinary market person in a congested suburb of an Indian city, or a breathtaking Namibian landscape, the immensity of wild gorillas in the Bwindi forests of Uganda or the ultimate wildlife experience of photographing grizzly bears in Alaska, Compton has developed a talent and will to take the perfect image of whatever is in front of him.
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Somewhere out there, deep in Alaska, two grizzlies have a ‘slight altercation’ while they fish for ripe Salmon… it was the salmon run in Alaska and the waters were a frenzy with fresh, red, ripe and pulsating salmon! . . It was feeding time…. . . @nickcomptonphotography . . #grizzlies #katmai #reserve #iliamna #bears #alaska #travel #nickcomptonphotography #blackandwhite @nickcomptonphotography
‘I do have a talent and ability to do something with it. I think I’ve got an eye for it and there is a lot of work that you can do with it in terms of conservation and charity,’ referring to the charitable work he’s done in Kenya recently.
Without being able to be on the front foot or in a certain aggressive mode on the cricket pitch anymore, Compton is using photography to get him committed and to get the adrenaline flowing once again.
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The Ancient Egyptian pyramids of Giza and The Sphinx – 2019 . . . I managed to scramble through a small hole, while the security weren’t looking, to get this shot. I did get reprimanded seriously on the way back but it was worth it! . . Truly a sight to behold and something I would highly recommend. I’m probably the worst tourist going around, in fact I can’t stand it and I would chose anywhere to avoid groups of them, however make sure you get up very early before the hordes role in and you willl see something that can only be described as truly remarkable! . . . @leica_camera @leicauk @leicaandcoffee @natgeo @natgeoyourshot @nickcomptonphotography . #egypt #rivernile #nile #sudan #steamshipsudan #photography #nickcomptonphotography #leicaq #leica #portrait #streetphotography #luxor #natgeo #travelphotography
‘Photography is a way of freedom, there are no rules, it is unhinged. That’s kind of what really gets my juices going and it’s way of looking for a new adrenaline rush. I think there is really a sporting context to photography and it can be quite physical to get a pretty good photo.’