A major sporting event like the World Cup or Olympic Games might bring hundreds of photographers to the sidelines, all vying for the shot that will go down in sports history. But how does one stand above the rest? We could think of no one better to ask than Richard "Dickie" Pelham of the UK. Dickie's resume includes the distinction of Chief Sports Photographer at The Sun, the UK's largest newspaper, and he can be found photographing any major sporting event, including the Olympics, The World Cup, The European Soccer Championships, and Wimbledon. Below, the 4-time Sports Photographer of the Year speaks about getting dirty on the job, joking around with David Beckham, and nailing that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Keep scrolling for a selection of Dickie's work.
Above: The crowd gets soaked at the Ryder Cup at The Belfry, England
Revo: As a sports photographer, you are either in the middle of, or right alongside, some lightning-fast action. Have you or your equipment ever been a victim of a stray ball or player? Any near misses?
Richard Pelham: Luckily for me I have never been taken out by a footballer or football, or hit by a cricket ball, but I have been hit by lots of blood splatterings of boxers during fights. But if you are going to sit ringside at a fight it's part of the job. I have had a few playful jabs to the ribs of a few boxers, and I have seen a few photographers taken out at football matches and getting their equipment smashed to pieces. Luckily for me I jump out of the way quick to avoid this!
Revo: What’s one of the most powerful shots, in your opinion, you’ve ever captured?
RP: My first Olympics was special to me. I captured Michael Johnson smashing the world and Olympic record in the 200m in Atlanta, USA. The picture had everything- was perfectly framed capturing his emotion as he crossed the line, with the scoreboard behind him showing the time and the event. Another image is David Beckham celebrating scoring against Greece in the final minute, taking England to the World Cup Finals in Japan. I won Sports Photographer of the Year with it. Beckham congratulated me sometime later; I joked with him that he did all the work-- the taking of the picture was nothing (I have known him for years so I could get away with that little joke!).
Revo: Is there any annual event or sport you get particularly excited about photographing on a personal level?
DP: I'm very lucky that I [photograph] The Olympics, The World Cup, major boxing fights around the world, and some of the biggest football matches in the UK, but Wimbledon All England Championships is a great two weeks for me. [It includes] some long hours daily, great weather, a real social occasion, and even better when you get a British winner, which I have seen twice with Andy Murray.
Revo: How would you describe your photography style? Do you have a signature you have come to be recognized by over the years?
DP: I pride myself on getting the moment that says, "Yep, that's the best picture." The Punch, The Goal, The Celebration that people talk about. [At] this year's Olympics I got a picture of Mo Farah celebrating victory. He had won his race- not a bad picture- [and then] he then went on his lap of honour around the stadium. He came back towards the photographers, and in a split second he jumped in the air with the Union Jack Flagg behind his head with big wide open eyes. At 3am [the photograph] made the back page of my newspaper.
Revo: How much time do you spend scoping out a location you’ll be working to decide where to position yourself to get your shots?
DP: Today's photographers are told where to sit and where to stand because television cameras demand the best positions. If I am shooting football I try to anticipate where a player will run for his celebration. When it comes to boxing, I try to sit dead centre of the ring so I can cover all angles. I have a saying: "You make your own luck." If that punch picture or that goal picture is coming my way, I hope I am going to get it. Luckily I have had a good year !
Revo: What’s been your professional highlight event of the year? Or, are you still awaiting it?
DP: The Olympic Games has to be the Job for me. Living on adrenaline for 16-hour days, not much sleep, not eating properly, chasing Great Britain winning gold medals--I must be crazy to do it but it's the best job ever--such a rush.
Below, scroll through some of Dickie's best-known photos:
Michael Johnson breaking the world and Olympic 200m records, Atlanta, 1996 Summer Olympcs.
Ref's Magic Spray Backfires
David Beckham celebrates his last-minute goal against Greece. The win qualified England for the World Cup Finals in 2002.
Adam Peaty, Olympic Swimmer
Mo Farah, British distance runner, celebrating his 10,000m gold medal win at the Rio Summer Olympics.
Andy Murray celebrates his Wimbledon victory.