Next February, the Texas Rollergirls, the flat track roller derby league based in Austin, starts its 17th season. And Felicia Graham has photographed almost all of them.
Graham, a Houston native, was in Austin for grad school in 2005 when she first went to a bout with a friend, a league co-founder who skated under the name Electra Blu.
“I was addicted immediately,” Graham says.
She eventually decided to shoot the Rollergirls for her journalism master’s thesis at the University of Texas and continued to photograph them for years after.
In 2016 at PhotoFest, a market for photographers, Graham met with photographers and photo editors who were energized by her roller derby work.
“They gave me ideas on how to do it right and how to self-publish and make it a good enough book that someone might pick it up,” Graham says. “After PhotoFest, I Kickstarted the first edition and self-published it.”
After a revise of the book’s look with design firm Pentagram, Trinity University picked it up for a new edition. The result is the glorious “Rollergirls: The Story of Flat Track Derby,” released last month with a foreword by Melissa Joulwan (skate name: Melicious) and an afterword by Dennis Darling.
Graham makes ends meet by taking the usual photography gigs, including shooting stills for movies. But she says she would love to take her love of derby on the road: “It's all over the world, so I’d love to find a league in each continent and cover them.”
Did Graham ever skate?
“Nope,” she says. “All the new girls always ask me why I never skated, and I'd like to say I need all my extremities for what I do for a living. I'm a photographer and a bartender, so if one of my hands goes down, I'm pretty much out of luck.”
Graham selected some photos from the book for the Statesman and tells some of the stories behind them.