For his new book, The Gamblers, photographer Martin Amis shoots the punters of Southern England’s racecourses – capturing a spirited, diverse and vibrant community.

For his new book, The Gamblers, photographer Martin Amis shoots the punters of Southern England’s racecourses – capturing a spirited, diverse and vibrant community.

“From a fairly young age, I have memories of my father gambling on horse racing,” British photographer Martin Amis remembers. “Whether it be watching on television or a day at the races, watching the GG’s [horses] was part of my childhood.”

The races were a lively affair, with a sea of faces expressing every emotion under the sun. Intense conversations came from all sides, whether it was the punters discussing their horse’s chance or bookmaker’s constant chanting of the latest odds.

“I can recall my father explaining the large amount of jargon associated with racecourse gambling: the odds, the rhyming slang and the mysterious tic-tac men that would relay market moves between bookmakers long before the days when everything was computerised,” Amis says.

“I would always marvel at the sense of trust that existed between bookmakers and punters with large bets often being placed without money changing hands.”

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

 

“I remember one particular day when we visited our local track Folkestone on a particularly cold winter’s day. You could drive your car right into the centre of the racecourse back then. It was so cold that my father would send me out to place our bets while he remained in the car. As the day went on, we watched much of the race from the warmth of the car. We returned back home with more cash than we took; we always remember the winning days more than the losing.”

The glorious energy and uplifting emotions of those formative years came rushing back in 2005 when Amis picked up the camera and returned to the races as an adult. After making a trip to Bath, he knew his hunch was spot on and from this bet, The Gamblers (RRB Photo Books) was born.

An intimate portrait of the people in the moment, Amis’s photographs have a raw, vibrant edge, perfectly capturing the highs and lows of winning and losing in carefully constructed yet candid shots. Travelling across Southern England to Bath, Brighton, Cheltenham, Epsom, Plumpton, Sandown Park and Windsor, Amis encountered people from all walks of life, capturing quirky personalities and intense emotions.

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

“One of the challenges of photographing during the race, is being positioned in the right spot – it is not easy to predict the winner of a given race, and doubly difficult to pre-empt which members of the crowd have backed the winner and will possibly make for a good photograph,” Amis notes.

“Most punters were largely unaware that they were being photographed, as they are naturally caught up with placing a bet and watching the races. A few people have approached me and asked specifically not to be included, which I always respected.”

The Gamblers is a love letter filled with every emotion imaginable. Without ever saying a word, it explains why people are willing to risk their earnings for something more. The racecourse becomes a place where life can be reduced to a metaphor: most of us are bystanders hoping we backed the right horse.

“There’s a great adrenaline rush when you back a winner, and it is very easy to crave that sensation over and over again,” Amis adds. “I used to gamble often myself, and when you were on a winning streak, it can feel like you can do no wrong.”

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

From ‘The Gamblers’ © Martin Amis courtesy RRB PhotoBooks

 

The Gamblers is available now on RRB Photo Books

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