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How an old football prevented a photographer from crashing his car – and sparked a business idea

A battered old football once prevented Liam Bailey from having a car crash – now, almost two decades later, he’s making a living off taking pictures of them.

The Norwich-based photographer has launched ‘Balls To All That’, a new venture where people can buy prints of his quirky photos featuring worn-out sports balls and equipment that have seen better days.

Collage of old footballs on black background print

It stems from his desire to combine his two passions of sport and photography.

“The uniqueness of the sports ball is amazing,” he said. “They all have their own personal ‘lives’, a bit like sports men and women. I like that they’ve had this existence of a sportsperson in a way. I’ve been accumulating these pictures in all that time, footballs, rugby balls, golf balls – there are quite a lot of sports in there.

“Over the years I’ve accumulated so many of these items. I love the look of them, when they’re all crumpled and play-worn.

Red cricket ball on black background print

“I wanted to give them the star treatment so I shot them all in the studio with glamorous portrait lighting that you’d use in editorial portraits, to put a bit of life back into them.”

His passion for these unloved, forgotten pieces of equipment has burned since 2002, when pure happenstance saw him avoid a major car accident.

“I had a lucky experience when a football got caught under my car wheel and prevented me from having an accident. It was a late night and I turned a corner at speed and the next thing I know I was sliding across the road, but I stopped quite quickly.

“I had an old Triumph Herald at the time so there were no computers in the car – it was purely manual. I stopped much quicker than I should have before I went into this fence and wall and when I got out I saw this ball had trapped itself between the tyre and the car and locked up the wheel. It really was a stroke of luck.

“I was going to just sort of kick it away but then I thought ‘no, you’ve been good to me’. I took it home with me and photographed it. It’s quite a weird way to start something off, but it’s absolutely what sparked my interest in doing this.”

Read the article on the EDP's website.