Photographer coming to Hawai‘i will capture islands’ roller derby culture with classic style

Listen to this Article
5 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Past and present will collide on the rink this summer, when a California photographer visits Hawai‘i to document the state’s roller derby teams using 19th-century technology.

Brittany R. Bradley employs the wet-plate collodion process to create modern-day examples of ambrotypes and tintypes – vintage photographs familiar to anyone who’s visited a history museum or watched a Civil War documentary.

“There is some strangeness and some ethereal quality to the images. The way it comes out of the camera is the way that it is,” said Bradley. “You get a closer representation of what the person actually looks like than you do in our digital age of filters and image modification.

“People are forced to look at themselves more kindly and more accurately during that process,” she continued. “I also love this idea of making a physical object in a time when images are no longer physical things.”

  • ‘Park Day.’ From left: Carrie ‘Clank’ Everson, Ashley ‘Cyanide Siren’ Davie and Evelyn ‘Evil Inside’ Maldonado. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley
  • ‘Rise and Grind.’ From left: David ‘Bawdy McAnick’ Murphy and Dessy ‘Secret CerVix’ Murphy. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley
  • ‘Riot Girls.’ From left: Charlie Bonifacio, Kaitlin ‘Sailor Doom’ Hebard and Bonnie ‘Spooky Surfer’ Bonifacio. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley

Bradley, who lives in San Jose and works full-time as a museum collections registrar, has studied photography since childhood; her father was a hobbyist. In 2017, she flew to Rochester, New York (perhaps appropriately, the home of Kodak) to learn the collodion process from a master before making the technique her own.

Since then, she has built a portfolio depicting individuals often unseen in early photography, which was almost exclusively the domain of wealthy white men. Her work includes photographs of Indigenous protesters, LGBTQ+ communities and the Women’s March.


Bradley first encountered roller derby – a contact sport on skates, in which teams play offense and defense simultaneously while barrelling around a circuit – in 2016 and joined a team three years later.

“I fell in love with the team. I fell in love with the sport. I fell in love with skating,” said Bradley. “I fell in love with how bad I was at it and how every single practice I got just a little tiny bit better, and I was hooked from then on.”

Offbeat, often punny nicknames are fundamental to the world of roller derby. Bradley’s moniker is SpeeDSM.

“The way this community shows up for each other: I’ve never seen anything like it … I’d never been a part of a community that was ever quite as tight-knit as that, and really the only defining thing that ties them all together is that they play this sport,” she said.

  • From left: Fancy Pants, Momicidal Tendencies, Nuke Starblocker, Manic Mermaid and Animal practice on a cloudy Sunday evening. Taken Mar. 10, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • Aloha Skate’s Katryna u0022Kat 5u0022 Weir (center) and Bambi u0022Bamzu0022 Lau (right) in a bout against a California team. Photo Courtesy: Bambi Lau
  • Loni ‘Goldie Knocks’ Delaplane takes to the track. Photo Courtesy: GIRR
  • Two-thirds of Aloha Skate pose during their first team practice on Feb. 10. Photo Courtesy: Aloha Skate
  • A game of roller derby pits two teams of five (consisting of one point-scoring ‘jammer’ and four ‘blockers’) against one another. Photo Courtesy: GIRR

Over time, Bradley had an epiphany, setting her on the path that will take her to Hawai‘i later this year.


“The longer I played, the more I realized that the communities that are served and represented in roller derby overlap with the communities that were underserved and underrepresented in photography at its inception,” she said. “You have a sport that in the face of nationwide bans on trans athletes has said, ‘F– you, trans athletes have always been a part of our sport. They’re not going anywhere.’

“It’s one of the only sports that competes at a high level with coed teams that have men, women and nonbinary folks all playing together without any complaint,” Bradley continued. “The definition of what an athlete is in roller derby, and what an athlete looks like, is not like any other sport: If you can skate and you push yourself and you’re willing to show up for your team members, you are an athlete.”

Bradley began photographing California roller derby teams in May 2023 and is now in communication with teams throughout the state of Hawai‘i, where she has longtime bonds. (Her godchildren live on Kaua‘i.) Several teams – including the Garden Island Renegade Rollerz, Aloha Skate, Big Island Roller Derby and Pacific Roller Derby – have already agreed to be photographed in September during the annual Battle of the Islands roller derby tournament on the Big Island.

Bradley’s roller derby art – which often possesses a joyous, spontaneous quality – will be a departure from most depictions of the sport, according to some skaters.

“Unfortunately, it gets the WWE treatment. It’s always very aggressive, rough, dangerous and competitive, and I don’t feel like that’s the case at all,” said Nanea “Nuke Starblocker” Walker, president of the Renegade Rollerz. “A lot of it is very accepting and loving. The bond that we share – not just with our own teammates, but other teams from around the state or around the country or around the world. It’s a huge community of very loving women.”


Bambi “Bamz” Lau is a member of Big Island Roller Derby and Aloha Skate, a recently formed statewide team featuring the best and most competitive skaters from throughout the Hawaiian Islands. She wants Bradley’s snapshots to capture players when they leave their brash alter egos on the rink.

  • ‘Coffee Atop the Warf.’ From left: Dessy ‘Secret CerVix’ Murphy, Amanda ‘Mad McWrath’ Carswell, Ali ‘Liberty Hell’ Hough, Amy ‘Skateless Jo’ Wagner, Mandalyn ‘Bruise Lee’ Knapic and David ‘Bawdy McAnick’ Murphy of Monterey Bay Roller Derby. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley
  • ‘Evil.’ Evelyn ‘Evil Inside’ Maldonado, a Silicon Valley Roller Derby blocker. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley
  • ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ Self-portrait of Brittany ‘SpeeDSM’ Bradley. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley
  • Brittany Bradley with a vintage camera and dressed in her Silicon Valley Roller Derby uniform. Photo Courtesy: Brittany Bradley

“I hope to reveal the human, mother, teacher, Hawaiian … everyday side of the roller derby skater,” Bamz said. “The roller derby community is extremely diverse.”

Bradley plans to conclude her roller derby project – which will culminate with an exhibition and a book – sometime next year. She still has many more places to go, including Las Vegas, where she hopes to photograph international skaters at RollerCon in July; and Washington and Oregon in August. Teams from Louisiana, Texas, Florida and even Australia have also reached out to express interest.

“I will go as far as I can, and include as many teams and skaters as I can,” said Bradley, who is traveling on her own dime with an antique camera and a portable darkroom.

“I don’t know of a better way to express the resiliency of roller derby … than looking at Hawaiian teams,” she continued. “Roller derby is punk rock and bootstrap at its best, and they’re doing that in a smaller pond than anyone else.

“They’re succeeding at it and keeping it alive, and so for me, it just made absolute perfect sense that this project include the Hawaiian teams from the jump.”

To follow Bradley on her roller derby photography journey, follow her on Instagram and TikTok or visit her website here.

The Garden Island Renegade Rollerz are holding a Krispy Kreme fundraiser on April 27. For more information including fundraising locations, follow the team on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

You can find Aloha Skate online on Facebook and Instagram. The team is planning to host a new tournament this November in Waimea on the Big Island.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."

Scott can be reached at [email protected].
Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments