As with many people in creative and artistic professions, or perhaps even especially photographers who have made it their business to document their surroundings in pictures, talking about one’s own work tends to be a difficult matter. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal your tricks and wisdom, on the other hand, you want the art itself to speak. This was no different with Heinrich von der Becke. But every now and then, in an interview, one could elicit a humorous story from him about, for example, the accidental creation of curious pictures. But he also knew how to report about the difficulties caused by the increasing advertising on the pitch or ever stronger safety precautions for the photographers. He finally opposed the so-called “living advertising pillars”, for example.
He was sometimes ahead of his time when it came to photography, but beyond photography he was also skilful with words and language – as a poetry writer and reciter of entertaining anecdotes and jokes in different dialects, which he cultivated and found worth preserving. He loved to speak in dialects and entertain many a company with them.
On his 75th birthday, he received greater media attention. But there are also audio documents from earlier years with interviews or excerpts of them. Here you can see one of the few surviving video recordings, listen to a selection of different audio documents and read a small selection of various poems.
TV report on the photo exhibition at the Sportbund Berlin on the occasion of the 75th birthday in 1988. The then head of the SFB sports editorial department Jochen Sprentzel congratulated and presented the report by Silke Samel.The master of the sports photo tells in the programme “Sport Report” from the sewing box and reveals one or the other trick, how he came to his “shot”.
This excerpt, from a longer contribution, comes from a video cassette from the estate of Mr von der Becke. It was a gift from the editors to the jubilarian.
In accordance with the technical possibilities at the time, the material could only be digitised in the quality shown here. The full screen mode should be ignored.
Interviews with Heinrich von der Becke
Here you can listen to a selection of interviews and excerpts of conversations with the photographer and sports enthusiast.
When Heinrich von der Becke ended his career as a photographer in the late 1980s, he had created an immense archive of analogue photos over the years. The digitisation of images was still in its infancy and the commercial use of the internet was still unthinkable. To access or view archived images, there were basically, with the exception of television, only newspapers and magazines that helped themselves from their own large archives or from photo agencies, or books – at best photo books.
Even then, the world of sports photography had a special status and was recorded in countless books. The following is a selection of books in which photos by Heinrich von der Becke were published:
- THE VIITH OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES CORTINA D’AMPEZZO (1956, Olympic Sports Publishing House, German Olympic Association)
- DEUTSCHER SPORT (1966, Olympic Sports Publishing House, German Sports Federation)
- TRAUMNOTE 6 (1984, Hoffmann and Cape, Manfred Schnelldorfer)
- DER TRAUM VOM SIEG (1986, Gruner + Jahr, Matthias Matussek and Christiane Gehner)
- FASCINATION ICE SPORTS (1986, Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, Heinz Maegerlein)
- BERLIN 2000 (1993, Pinsker Publishing House, Dr. Axel Nawrocki)
- 100 YEARS OF OLYMPIC GAMES OF THE NEW TIME 1920-1932 (1991, Edition Olympische Sportbibliothek, Verlag für Sport und Kultur, Willi Ph. Knecht)
- 100 YEARS OF OLYMPIC GAMES OF THE NEW TIME 1936-1956 (1992, Edition Olympic Sports Library, Publishing House for Sport and Culture, Willi Ph. Knecht)
- 100 YEARS OF OLYMPIC GAMES OF THE NEW TIME 1960-1972 (1994, Edition Olympic Sports Library, Publishing House for Sport and Culture, Willi Ph. Knecht)
- OLYMPICS AND CULTURE 1896-1996 (1994, Edition Olympic Sports Library, Publishing House for Sport and Culture, Willi Ph. Knecht)
- 100 YEARS OF OLYMPIC GAMES OF THE NEW TIME 1976-1988 (1995, Edition Olympic Sports Library, Publishing House for Sport and Culture, Karl Adolph Scherer)
- 1936 – THE OLYMPIC GAMES AND THE NATIONAL SOCIALISM (1996, Argon Verlag, Reinhard Rürup)
- HEROES OF THE GAMES 1896-1996 (1996, Edition Olympische Sportbibliothek, Publishing House for Sport and Culture, Willi Ph. Knecht)
- EUROPEAN MONTH OF PHOTOGRAPHY (2008, Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH)
- JESSE OWENS, A Sports Legend (2009, Sporthistorische Blätter No. 14, Forum für Sportgeschichte, Gerd Steins)
Heinrich von der Becke as poet and storyteller
He was not only a brilliant photographer, but also knew how to use words and language skilfully. Listen here to a poem for Marlene and his preference for preserving dialects.
Was writing poetry possibly another special talent, and it certainly was, or was it for him only the intellectual compensation for the restless and exhausting job of a photographer? He kept this to himself and left behind a large number of poems.
He called a whole category of poems Wall Poems, which dealt with the Wall, the reunification after the fall of the Wall or politics in general. He also liked to adapt existing texts or pieces of music. The poem “Die Mauer”, for example, is a reference to the Walter Kollo hit “Untern Linden, untern Linden” from the operetta “Wie einst im Mai”. The lines entitled “Auferstanden aus Ruinen” (Risen from Ruins) inevitably already betray their origin in it: the national anthem of the GDR.
The work has been preserved as a paper document but also in a whole collection of audio cassettes. Here you can see some of the originals.