Cover photo: Jesse Owens with Olympic champion Luz Long | Heinrich von der Becke Picture Archive in the Berlin Sports Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Heinrich von der Becke, the famous Berlin sports photographer, died ten years ago - His photos caused a sensation

Thomas Willaschek in “Sport in Berlin” – Magazine of the Landessportbund Berlin, June 2007

In the news metropolis of Berlin, his name carried weight for many decades: Heinrich von der Becke, the artist with the slouch hat on his head, was one of the best photographers working in Berlin.
25 June 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of his death.

In 1925, a Dresden uncle gave the twelve-year-old a camera, an “Agfa Billi” (36 RM), as a confirmation present. The first successful family photos followed shortly afterwards, and in 1928 he finally signed an apprenticeship contract with the old master of Berlin sports photography Max Schirner in Wallstraße. The first picture published by v.d. Becke was taken during a forest run in the Berlin Grunewald.
He photographed for the Schirner picture agency until 1932 and moved to the Presse-Bild agency in Friedrichstraße a year later.

Jesse Owens

Two men stand next to each other and look friendly into the camera. One has his right hand on the other's back. They are standing in the upper tier of a stadium and looking into the camera. In the line of sight, the entire length of the stadium can be seen, with the stands empty of people, all the way to the opposite curve. Behind the stadium is a tower.
Photo: Heinrich von der Becke and Jesse Owens 1964 | Copyright Berlin Sports Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Von der Becke first caused a sensation with his photographs of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The pictures of Jesse Owens, the 4-time Olympic champion from the USA, became world-famous. He remained on friendly terms with him until his death in 1980.

Immediately after the end of the war, the man with the cap (and often armed with a ladder at sporting events) could be found at all important and seemingly less important events in the city – in all weathers. Whether at the countless national, international and Berlin championships or at popular sports competitions: v. d. Becke was always there!

This was also the case at 13 Olympic Summer and Winter Games from 1936 to 1976.

In front of his camera were countless people from next door, but also many stars and celebrities of sport: Max Schmeling, Bubi Scholz, Fritz Walter or Emil Zatopek. The Becke documentaries on 17 June 1953, the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the visit of the then US President John F. Kennedy to West Berlin in 1963 were also outstanding.

City views of the Berlin Radio Tower in July 1995 are among Heinrich von der Becke’s last works. He died two years later in Berlin after a short, serious illness.

His picture archive in the Berlin Sports Museum

In spring 1997, the Berlin Sports Museum acquired his picture archive with approx. 65,000 b/w prints, 1.2 million negatives as well as approx. 2000 colour films, a corresponding card index and extensive film legends.
The archive, which is used intensively by the media, clubs, associations or students, represents in its unity a unique memory of regional, national and international sports and contemporary history of the last seventy years.

Thomas Willaschek,
Berlin Sports Museum
AIMS Marathon Museum of Running

“Sport in Berlin” – magazine of the Landessportbund Berlin, June 2007.

The Berlin Sports Museum and the Forum for Sports History (AIMS Marathon-Museum of Running) regularly publish articles on sports history and the work of the Sports Museum in “Sport in Berlin”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Weitere Beiträge