My Big Break

Septem­ber, 2004 Athens, Greece, UK Nikon D2x

NPhoto - - Contents - Keith Wil­son

Sport supremo Bob Martin re­veals the im­age that really put him on the map

Bob Martin has cho­sen a rel­a­tively re­cent im­age from the Par­a­lympic Games in 2004 as the one that had the great­est im­pact on his

ca­reer. He was al­ready a very suc­cess­ful sports pho­tog­ra­pher when he trav­elled to Athens to cover the games for Sports

Il­lus­trated mag­a­zine, but he be­lieves this pho­to­graph took his work a wider au­di­ence.

“That pic­ture mas­sively changed my ca­reer,” he says. “I was pretty well known when I took that pic­ture, but it le­git­imised me with the non-sports pho­tog­ra­phers, be­cause it got used so widely, and be­cause it won World Press Photo in the sports sec­tion.”

Bob nearly missed the shot. He was on the cat­walk above the pool for a strictly lim­ited time. He’d made three trips to Athens prior to the Olympics and en­dured count­less meet­ings with bu­reau­crats to gain per­mis­sion for this unique per­spec­tive. “The ef­fort to pro­duce that pic­ture was the most I’d ever done for one as­sign­ment and yet I al­most screwed up,” he re­calls. “I was about half a pool length away when the pic­ture hap­pened. On a cat­walk you can’t move fast, you’ve got a safety har­ness. I was fur­ther down the pool shoot­ing de­tails of swim­mers. He walked in, took his legs off, put them next to his chair, dived in and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve missed the bel­ter of the day.’ Then there was a false start, so I man­aged to get in place for the sec­ond time.”

The break­through

Prior to this mo­ment, pic­tures from the Par­a­lympics were not widely pub­lished. “That pic­ture took Par­a­lympic pic­tures onto the main­stream news pages,” says Bob. “Even Sports

Il­lus­trated hadn’t pub­lished a Par­a­lympic pic­ture… They ended up run­ning three dou­blepage spreads at the front of the mag­a­zine with Par­a­lympic pic­tures, which was un­heard of. It’s nor­mally for events like the Su­per Bowl.”

In 2005 Bob won the World Press Photo Sports Pic­ture of the Year and sud­denly he was no longer con­sid­ered to be “just an­other sports pho­tog­ra­pher”. He says: “It was a def­i­nite step up. Ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies would ring me up and say ‘We’ve seen your port­fo­lio’, but read­ing be­tween the lines the only rea­son they rang me up was be­cause I had won the World Press Photo award. Awards are mas­sively im­por­tant to your ca­reer… it should be about how good your pic­tures are, but most peo­ple don’t really know how good your pic­tures are, awards are what they mea­sure you by.”

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