Photographing an international sporting event on the historic scene of the 1972 Olympic Games, and doing so with a completely manually operated camera, was both a creative and purist idea. Poby took two Leica M10 Monochromes and four lenses to cover the competitions and dared to blend in with the other sports photographers, with their extremely long focal lengths. The result of Poby’s efforts is a conceptual body of work in black and white, imbued with aesthetic power.
What immediately comes to mind about the 2022 European Championships in Munich?
Pure joy and desire to take pictures and be creative! The Olympic Stadium in Munich is a legendary place. It was very special for me to photograph this great event with a completely different camera system, in contrast to the latest trends.
You were working with the Leica M10 Monochrom.
It was delightful. From an emotional perspective, it felt like coming home again. I have been photographing FC Bavaria football matches at the Olympic Stadium for over ten years, using manually operated analogue cameras. Today these sporting events are photographed by professionals with very fast autofocus cameras and long focal lengths, so you can be close to the action, without being in the way of TV cameras. Everything is laid out very precisely. This leaves very little room for other camera formats. That was precisely what attracted me to the project. There I was, with my relatively short focal lengths (1.8/24mm, 1.4/35mm, 1.4/50mm, and 2.4/90mm), alongside the best sports photographers in the world; and I was looking for particular perspectives and moments, to tell an exciting story. As in the old days, I had to anticipate my images and manually adjust everything to get the images I wanted.
Do you have a concrete example of the essential difference between the M10 Monochrom and the other cameras in this specific situation?
Let’s imagine I’m taking pictures at a sporting event and I’m very close to the athletes. I observe a moment that evolves and could result in a good image. As I get closer to the situation, I have to zoom in because of my short focal length, I set the correct exposure, and as I move around, I quickly take a test shot to see if the exposure is correct. Then, I set the focus to approximately the calculated distance from the object. Once I’ve found my position, I can quickly correct and set the sharpness. As soon as I have a moving object in front of me, for example a triathlete jumping off the edge into the water, I first focus on the edge and then shift focus by moving it back a millimeter or two. It’s all a matter of routine and experience.
How did you come up with the idea to use a Leica to photograph a large event, where it is often a matter of a split second?
In 1972, exactly 50 years ago, the Olympic Games were held in Munich. When I heard that the 2022 European Championships in Munich was going to be held at the Olympic venue, I immediately knew that I had to photograph it as an art project. 50 years ago, Leica’s M manual cameras were the leaders in photography to sports. Back then, it took a lot of experience and knowledge of routines to take good sports photos. I knew that this project would only work for me if I used a manual but modern Leica, with lenses that were already on the market in 1972. My goal was to take photographs that concentrated on the absolutely essential: light. and shadow, black and white.
You were a professional athlete yourself. Does that help when looking for reasons?
Taking pictures with a Leica M is not fast food photography. You have to understand the type of sports and be able to interpret how the movements are going to be, to take the best photo in each situation. It is very helpful to understand the processes and dynamics of a sporting event of this type, in order to be in the right place at the right time. And, of course, it is very important to understand the athletes themselves: procedures, emotions, concentration. I feel like an athlete, so I see that as a clear advantage for my job.
From professional athlete to photographer: how did that decision come about?
Even during the time when I was active in sports, I was involved with art and painting, photography and filming with Super 8. After my sports career, I studied graphic design and painting. Since then, I have been trying to combine these two worlds. I consider it a very natural development. In fact, I don’t have a single love in me.
Going back to Munich: what was particularly important to you when you were taking the photos?
To show that good, emotional sports photography can work, even without fast autofocus cameras and long focal lengths, and that there are times when it’s especially nice to see our hectic and overstimulated world in black and white. Good images come first in the mind, and there are so many different ways to shape them. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, Hungarian photographer Martin Munkácsi took great sports photos with large-format cameras. That inspired me, decades ago, to shoot sports with a Hasselblad medium format and a Linhof large format, and to set myself apart from the rest: everything was manual and on film. The 2022 European Championships in Munich, together with the Leica M10 Monochrom, gave me the best opportunity to put it to the test, once again.
What, in particular, draws you to sports photography?
The fact that I am very challenged, both mentally and physically. I rode my bike every day, from my accommodation to the Olympic Park, with a backpack full of cameras on my back. Shooting outdoors in the mountains, in or under water, and in the air-conditioned studio is wonderfully varied. This combination has its own particular appeal and, even after 30 years, I’m still happy when I pick up the camera, whether it’s for photos or videos.
Peter Pobyjpicz, alias Poby, was born and raised in Germany. After his sports career as part of the German water handball team, he studied Graphic Design, Design and Painting in Düsseldorf. Since then, he has been combining both worlds, specializing in sports, lifestyle and underwater photography. He has covered numerous Olympic Games and World Championships with his camera mara; he also shoots campaigns for VISA, Adidas, Lufthansa, Volvo, BMW and many more. Poby has been living in the United States, since 2004, and currently in Los Angeles. Learn more about Poby’s photography at hiswebsiteandInstagram channel.
All the images of the Eurocopa Munich 2022 inwww.leicamonochrom.art.
PostingEuropean Championship Munich 2022first appeared inThe Leica Camera Blog.