Meet the Photographers – Alex Rotas

Friday, 10 January 2014

Over the next year I shall be running regular features on the photographers who have (and are still to) kindly allow us to use their photographs as a visual prompt for writing.


Alex Rotas


My interest lies in photographing athletes, but not the kind we normally see. These are athletes who still compete in international events through their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. I am passionate about challenging the negative stereotypes that prevail in our culture about ageing, ones that insist this is a time of inevitable decline, stagnation and passivity. Ageing does indeed present challenges but it presents opportunities too.

You become a Masters athlete at 35 and then compete in 5-year age bands: from 35-39, from 40-45, from 44-49, from 50-54, and so on right up to the 95-99 and 100+ age category. Like all athletes, masters athletes constantly push themselves physically and mentally to achieve new goals. They break records, challenge themselves daily and continually work to better their techniques and maintain, if not improve, their performances. As I hope my photographs show, they are determined, strong, joyful, empowered and full of life. They remind us that there is another way of looking at ageing than viewing it either as a process of decline and deterioration or as a time to conceal our wrinkles in a quest for cosmetic youth. Older athletes don’t necessarily look younger than they are. But they look wonderful and very ‘alive’, demonstrating that no matter what our age, we can aim for new goals, new personal bests and new achievements.

As I travel around the masters’ athletics circuit, I am learning more about the lives behind the faces. Some are battling cancer; some have had joint replacements, others strokes or heart problems, but remarkably, if they can, there they are still out there, competing on the track or field. The crowds are thin and few people know about them, so I’m hoping my photographs can make a contribution, however small, towards bringing both the events and the individuals to a wider public audience. I travel world-wide to photograph masters events and have exhibited my work throughout the UK, in the US and in Finland and been interviewed for the press and radio including on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

Not everyone can be, or wants to be, an athlete. But I hope my photos remind us of what’s possible as we age and challenge some of the powerful preconceptions that circulate in our society about what it means to be old.

My website is and I’m on facebook as Alex Rotas Photography.


The photo you used is of Reinhard Dahms, Germany, born 1939, competing in the men’s Pole Vault, 70-74 year age group, at the European Veteran Athletics Championships in Zittau, August 2012.This event was won with a cleared height of  3.10 metres. The world record for this event and age group is an impressive 3.31m (for comparison, Olympic Gold was won at London with the bar cleared at 5.97m).


And here is a reminder Alex’  photograph  from Week Three of the challenge:

The winning poem was written by Diane Jackman

Veteran pole vaulter

They tell me

I should

know better

at my age

they didn’t

see me in ’68

at my peak

the height

of my powers

in the thin air

of Ciudad

de Mexico.


I flew

over the bar


like this

like this


like students

in the Plaza

de las Tres





Diane  Jackman