What are you thinking?


© Chelsea Abbott


© Chelsea Abbott


© Chelsea Abbott


What are you thinking now?


Domestic abuse? This is what I thought the first time I saw Chelsea’s work online.

But no. This is something else entirely.

Chelsea chronicles a new form of femininity in Trophy. She documents the marks and bruises on women who participate in contact sports such as Roller Derby. Bruises on women are commonly understood to connote domestic violence. She subverts this assumption by presenting her peers’ proud display of their badges of honour.

Having covered rugby league games for years, I know the pride with which men often carry their injuries. Chelsea’s Roller Derby teammates in Sheffield’s Hallam Hellcats are the same. Marks of battles past. A celebration of sport and physical ability.

It was great hearing Chelsea share her enthusiasm for the game at November’s Lens Think Yorkshire social. Plenty of reaction and discussion. Why is our first reaction one of criminal assault? How do the bruises come about? Is it possible the images could be read as sado-masochistic?

Her teammates often offer their bruises up to the project – “Hey, I’ve got a new one. Do you want it?!”

In a fast, challenging team game knocks, supports and collisions are part and parcel.

For me it was a quick journey from concern to admiration, and many of us agree Trophy would make a fantastic book.

My way home from the social was eventful. Injury filled. I was hyper-aware of bodies hurt and healing. A lad worse for drink in front of me, bleeding from a nicked cheek, being helped onto the train by his similarly giddy and happy friends. The teenager on the train with his arm bandaged up and… as he removed the wrappings… covered in clingfilm. At the time I though he’d been self-harming, then realised later he was more likely nursing a freshly made tattoo. Then on my way out of my home station the aftermath of a fight: a man spattered in blood carrying a deep split on his eyebrow where he’d been punched. I helped to swab the wound for him while assistance arrived.

All bodies under stress that will heal in time, like those of Chelsea’s Roller Derby teammates. But gained in much less fun circumstances!

You can see more of Chelsea Abbott’s work here: www.chelsea-abbott.com