Cover photo: Olaf Lawrenz (right) and Friedl Stracke on the home stretch | Heinrich von der Becke Picture Archive in the Berlin Sports Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

The event in the event

Thoughts about the sports photo from the protagonist of this website

Heinrich von der Becke in the magazine “Bildjournalist” 02/1958

Three young people stand on the victory podium of a stadium and, besides the usual handshake, await the victory trophy from the hand of the sports president. They bow – beaming or smiling sheepishly, depending on their temperament and character – and wave to the applauding spectators: A picture shown a thousand times in newspapers, magazines, in newsreels and on television, which a discerning reporter holds on to only with reluctance.

Does this even need to be registered? Can’t we do without these images? I ask myself this question every time a crowd of photo reporters (including myself, to my chagrin) prepares to capture this or a similar situation. Experience proves: such pictures are demanded. However, this does not mean that the reader nowadays only takes them as a matter of registration and indifference. In a major report, however, they are often unavoidable, but as a central theme they are just as unbearable as the stereotypical images of the finish.

Two men in short-sleeved sportswear on the running track. One man is supporting the other man who is sitting on the ground.
Photo: Heinrich von der Becke | Copyright Berlin Sports Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

More important than the result is the fight. The sports reporter is therefore required to show more and more pictures of dramatic highlights with a human touch, which are by no means limited to the decision-making phase.

A sports report must be captivating, it must not be limited to the dry reproduction of the course of the fight. By describing the milieu and the atmosphere, it should awaken in the reader a feeling of being there.

Two men in short-sleeved sportswear embrace each other
Photo: Heinrich von der Becke | Copyright Berlin Sports Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

We sports reporters of today are always on the lookout for the unexpected, for the event within the event. The picture of a cyclist who has a puncture in a promising position and mends his tire interests every editor more than the usual pictures of the finish line and the award ceremony, which he is sure to be offered several times.
The event within the event is first and foremost the human being himself as the author of countless events that are not part of the sports program. A crying winner, a resigned loser, a spectator gripped by enthusiasm – they reflect the actual event, the sporting competition, in a more essential, condensed and thus more generally comprehensible way than the “sports photo”.

Heinrich von der Becke

About the three pictures:

Berlin’s Olaf Lawrenz, in black kit, and his opponent Friedl Stracke, Barmen, storm down the home stretch. Six meters behind the finish line stand the photo reporters, ready to shoot. Lying almost at the same height, the two competitors run into the finish, and with the last of his strength Olaf Lawrenz throws himself forward to intercept his opponent by chest width. His strength reaches this far, but now he loses his balance and falls to the ground. His comrades help him up, and the first to congratulate him is his tough opponent Stracke. The tension of the winner is released, there is a gripping picture: the crying winner next to the happy beaming runner-up.

Most newspapers carried the picture of the winner falling to the ground, although I personally liked the picture after the fight even better. But the scene itself is probably best described with three pictures.

A whole year later at the German Athletics Championships in Frankfurt, the photo reporters were reproached for undisciplined behavior inside the stadium and at the finish line. One sports official claimed that in Hamburg, colleagues had caused Olaf Lawrenz to fall at the finish line because they had blocked the run-out. Fortunately, the winner of Hamburg was on the course himself, and the sports official’s nonsensical claim was immediately refuted by him.

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