The multi award-winning British photographer will aim to capture the spirit of the youth and the city in his images.
“I just like to take pictures that sum up the event, pictures with sense of place."
Bob Martin has taken a countless number of pictures during his career; he has covered 16 Olympic Games for many of the world’s biggest media outlets. Currently he is one of the most famous sports photographers on the face of the planet. Despite his many years of experience, Martin still remembers his first published picture as if it were yesterday.
“My first published picture was when I was sixteen years old. It was a motorcycle picture and it was published in a local paper called ‘The Surrey Comet,’” recalled the English photographer who will be leading the photographic coverage for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
But his story started long before that picture of a motorbike scramble.
When Martin was a teenager he signed up to study veterinary medicine – it never even occurred to him that he would end up being a photographer. However, while caring for animals interested him, his passion was really in the darkroom.
The award-winning photographer, who was named ´British Sports Photographer of the Year’ on three occasions and ‘Sports Photojournalist of the Year’ in the United States, explained how he got his start.
“I went to college and my ambition as a young man was to be vet. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My hobby was photography and I thought, ‘I want to be a vet, that’s what a young person wants to do.’ But then I realised that to be a vet you have to do many, many years of study and go to university for five years. That scared me off a bit and I was one of the first people in England ever to have a gap year, because this was many years ago,” said Martin, laughing.
Determined to set his studies aside, he had the awkward duty of informing his father about the decision that would change his life forever.
“I came back to my father and I told him that I was not going to go to university and that I wanted to be a photographic assistant. He was horrified, destroyed, but finally he convinced himself that I was going to take a year off university but I’ve never gone back. I continue to work,” described the UK-based photographer, who has been published in prestigious media such as Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Life Magazine, Stern, Paris Match, Bunte, L’Equipe, The Sunday Times and The New York Times, among others.
He’s covered the Olympic Games since 1984 and to date has covered 16 editions in total, including both the Winter and Summer Games.
Since that first image that appeared in the third page of the ‘The Surrey Comet,’ he went on to work in the Department of Civil Engineering at Imperial College, London; he then joined the Allsport photography agency and worked as a freelance photographer for various English newspapers. It was during the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer that he met the Chief of Photography for Sports Illustrated, a meeting that would land him a job with the influential American magazine.
Martin was Chief of Photography for the London 2012 Games and served as a consultant on photographic issues for Rio 2016.
“As a sports photographer, generally in England, you photograph football, that’s the big sport. But I’ve never particularly enjoyed photographing football and I was always trying to find a way not to. I discovered that if I worked with the Athletics Federation and specialised in Olympic stuff there was a way for me to go forward. It’s been a brilliant career. I really love the Olympics. As a photographer, every four years I have to pick and produce my best pictures,” he said.
Martin explained how from a photographic point of view, the Youth Olympic Games present a different kind of challenge from other Olympics.
“The Olympics are the absolute peak of the sport. Here (the Youth Olympics) it’s a little different because you have to find pictures which sum up youth, so it’s a bit more difficult to find the pictures we want. But our role in the IOC is to take pictures of the Youth Olympics Games which don’t normally get much media coverage and distribute them to the world’s media outlets to try and get publicity for Buenos Aires 2018,” said Martin, who is also one of the official photographers for Wimbledon and the London Marathon.
“I just like to take pictures that sum up the event, pictures with sense of place. For example, I’ll be looking for special pictures of Buenos Aires, a picture that sums up the Youth Olympic Games and one that shows the factor of youth and the city of Buenos Aires. I like pictures with a sense of place, that have a message as well as being a good action picture,” he added.
After so many years in photography and a display cabinet full of awards, Martin is not running short on inspiration.
“To try to get better pictures. Always the motivation is to take another good picture.”
The next objective for Martin’s lens will take the highly-acclaimed photographer south for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.