Member Spotlight: Meet Sandra
- Name: Sandra Velez-Lopez
- Pronouns: She/Her
- @sandras_sports_shots and @number1_soccer_mom
- Sentiments to live by: I shoot because I love it, not because I have to.
What’s your favorite soccer memory?
The first time I took my family to watch the USWNT play. It was particularly special to us because the match was USA vs. Mexico and we’re Mexican. It was amazing getting to see women on both national teams who my family had grown to admire so much. I mean, they’re role models to my kids and getting to point out, “Oh, this is so and so,” as each player ran by was so exciting.
The follow-up to that favorite memory was getting to take my kids to the celebration after the Women’s World Cup in 2015. They had a street party for the team in downtown LA. We got there super early and I got to hold my kids up and say, “ Look, this is history in the making.”
My whole life, soccer has been integral to my understanding of family. My dad was a soccer player; he and my uncles would play in recreational soccer leagues and weekends were spent with my whole family supporting them on the field.
What do you think is the greatest thing about women’s soccer?
I see a different passion in women’s soccer because it’s more than just the game. It’s a feeling of proving to themselves and others that it can be done, that women can be strong leaders in this game.
Absolutely! It cannot be overstated how important it is for other girls and women to see that.
Yeah, I tell my daughters that in addition to the talent you see from these women on the field, many of them are also juggling incredibly demanding professional careers. There are not many pro men who are also becoming doctors!
As a photographer, what do you love about capturing soccer on camera?
I love the commitment it captures on players’ faces when they’re going after the ball…they are just so focused on scoring a goal that nothing else matters. A lot of the time I show my pictures to players after a game and they say, “Oh no, I don’t like how my face looks.” But for me, that’s what I love about it. I say, “No, it’s beautiful because that’s what pure determination looks like.”
That’s what I love about sports photography, too―there’s nothing superficial about it. Do you have a favorite soccer photo of yourself?
Yes, it’s a picture of me next to my dad and the trophy he won in his rec soccer league. As you can see the trophy is bigger than I am!
(Laughs) No kidding! I think that could be some kind of metaphor for the wins we get in soccer being bigger than ourselves. What are some barriers you’ve faced trying to break into the soccer photography industry?
Well in many cases, if I inquire about taking pictures for a club, it’s always what’s your experience, and do you have credentials? But it’s like no, I don’t have that yet because I’ve never gotten the chance in the first place. There’s a real lack of women’s sports photographers in general and from my point of view I am just going to remain committed and passionate about reaching out to people and saying, “Hey, if you don’t have someone covering your women’s team, then I’ll do it.” There’s a lack of funding around the women’s game which also contributes to the problem. It’s a funny one though because in general the sports industry is now admitting that we need more women’s sports coverage―and yes we do―but also doesn’t it make sense that we invest in more women photographers, journalists, and filmmakers to make this coverage?
Yes, this is such an important point.
It’s one of the reasons I do what I do, I want to be a part of showcasing how amazing women athletes are. It started when I would take my young daughters to soccer practice and I could see their games were celebrated way less than the boys, even from the perspective of the girls playing. So I’d say to my girls, “Make sure you celebrate if your team wins or you score a goal because you should be able to show that you’re proud of it!” Team celebration photos are my favorite!
In what ways do you think connecting more women and allies through WIS could help promote women’s soccer photography?
Well, I noticed that in Slack and in our community in general there are a lot of coaches. So it would be great to be able to let them know that there are people like me out there who are willing to come and take pictures of their teams. It’s a win-win for the community because I could get more exposure for my work and it’s always good for players to get to really see themselves in a game and my photos would showcase that the work they’ve been putting in is paying off on the field.
What’s a soccer organization doing work for women that you admire?
Right now it’s got to be Angel City FC and its supporter’s group Rebellion 99. (laughs and points to a massive Angel City scarf pinned behind her). I think they are both working really hard to help people in the city. In particular, Rebellion 99 has been helping out by fundraising for the Downtown Women’s Shelter and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, among other things, to do their part to help out the community.
When Angel City announced the stadium location, the founders of the club all got together to greet the fans outside and we drove by in our cars (socially-distanced) to wave our scarves and banners―the spirit of the team already feels amazing!
What makes you excited about WIS?
It’s exciting for me to be a part of the events that WIS has been putting on. Honestly, it’s helped me so much with my confidence. I’m a pretty shy person and I get nervous easily but connecting with women over soccer has been so much fun! It’s pushed me to put myself out there and I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met who are so passionate about the game. Did you know I also ran into Andrea Pilar (Swapping Kits With Dre) at a beach soccer game? I thought hmm, she looks familiar, and then she said “Sandra, hey!”
Ah, that’s so cool!
And just last weekend a woman from the WIS Slack, Kim Brady, messaged me to ask if I wanted to come along and take pictures of the team she coaches. It was great to meet another woman in soccer and work with her like that. I guess that’s what it’s all about, bringing everyone together in the community.
WIS member spotlights are conducted and written by our content producer Pip Penman.