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The Rugby Metaphor

by Editor Wicher Bos
Edited and published by Yvette Depaepe, the 29th of April 2022


The aim of each rugby team is to win the game by scoring more points than the opposing team. The best and most exciting way to score is to be awarded a try. It's also known as scoring a try. Its photographic analogy seems to be getting a viewer’s attention…
Now I have to admit I never played rugby, but when I tried to understand the game and its goals, it struck me how good an analogy it seems for what happens in your image.

In the photographic field there are two teams playing in the ‘Attention league’. Either team has a set of strategies to influence visual tension and direct viewers: team Boring their strategy is to reduce tension and team Confused their strategy is to enhance tension.

Wassily Kandinsky said in 1912: “Composition is the sum of organized tension” and, that seems to me akin to a rugby scrum. A match between two opposing forces of tension.


'Scrum' by Osmel


“In rugby, as one team attempts to maintain continuity of possession, the opposing team strives to contest for possession. This provides the essential balance between continuity of play and continuity of possession. This balance of contestability and continuity applies to both set piece and open play.”


'Rugby' by Cesar March


Similarly, for a viewer of an image the most fun occurs if there is a balance between the two forces of tension, that makes an image interesting and sometimes exciting. Your job as a photographer is to create such an interesting visual game for your viewer - finding the right balance.

If you want to be noticed. You need to grab ‘attention’... The ball seems a metaphor for that. You grab it, hold it and bring it to your end of the field…

Grab attention of your viewers ensure their visual distractions are blocked by what you have to show…


'Mía!' by Osmel



'Tackling' by Rob Li


Our brain is wired to prioritize the strange, the special, the anomaly… So, if you need attention that's what you need to do... stand out for example, dress differently. Use these scientific findings in photography to draw viewer’s attention to where you want it.

A cliché image is boring and without any original sensation. The (small) surprises an image offer are a treat for our brain… even in a neurological sense.

Barthes' Punctum works in a similar way I think, an abrasive image or provocative visual elements that are thought provoking and… thinking often leads to a mental surprise or a discovery.



Curiosity is a place between the boring and the confused. "Normal" is not interesting, it gets boring quickly. On the other hand, confusion can be a source of creativity. No adventure without some confusion. Confusion arises from deviating from the normal. Confusion is restless, confusion does not settle. However, confusion also can be a struggle. More confusion than a person can handle will lead to anxiety and even fear and distress.

If you want the viewer to stay, throw them a curved ball of attention, give them something to chew on… holding their attention and inviting them to explore your artwork.


'grabbing hands' by Andrea De Felici



'Escort' by Tany Kely


But it must not go too wild… (although we all have different levels for horror) then it becomes scary and people turn their heads to not view the image…

“In rugby, any player may pass, throw or give the ball to any another player. Usually, they will try to make sure it goes to one of the team mates who is in a better position to do something positive with the ball.”


Hold attention and bring it where you want.


'Make Way' by Jennifer Willis


Think of it as image elements applied in a smart way such that the attention (the ball) is kept in the team. However, focusing attention in the wrong place or an overuse of these attention triggers in an image creates visual clutter - distractions and take the viewer away from your subject.



Possession of viewer’s attention that’s the photographic game…. You photo ends up being an Attention Match… Photographers need to balance these forces and work with them, to surprise the viewers.


'8 vs 5' by Peter Sticza


Both sides compete for the ball and players may lift their teammates. A jumping player cannot be tackled until they stand and only shoulder-to-shoulder contact is allowed; deliberate infringement of this law is dangerous play, and results in a penalty kick.


And if you as a photography get it right, this is how you feel:


'Victory Roar' by Hugh Wilkinson


Any metaphor or analogy has its flaws so does this one, so let me know what you think in the comments… at least it guided me to some exceptional and expressive images. Below you find a few more all using the keyword Rugby and do try keyword Polo for more photographic fun…



(I used this introductory website on rugby


'Chaos On The Field' by Darlene Hewson



'Gaining meters' by Osmel



'Rugby life' by Luca Ferdinandi



'Melé' by Cesar March



'An Effort' by Vlad Khodski



'Got it' by Hervé Loire


Fabulous !!
Osmel PRO
Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks for sharing!
I feel every moments of these movements ! Congratulations !
grossartige Fotografie und Bildbearbeitung!
Excellent introductory write up, stunning action photographs, well done Witcher & Yvette
Thank you Miro ,-)
Nice and emotional images .
Wow, great stuff, congrats to all!
great and very emotional photos, great!
I used to play rugby . Photos are great ! I felt the athmosphere of the match once again.
So good to hear! Yes these are really top works from excellent photographers…
Great article!! Thank you for choosing my photo!!
Wow amazing stunning photography that really brings this great game to life thank you for this great article
Very interesting article. Great photos! I enjoyed it a lot! Thank you for sharing, Wicher.
Such a fine article, Wicher ... I really enjoy the 'Rugby Metaphor'. Cheers, Yvette