Thomas Fähnrich combines his life-long passions, football and photography, when shooting as the official photographer of the Cologne football club, 1. FC Köln. However, shooting sports is not enough for the Cologne based photographer. When we got the chance to speak to him, we got to know about the pleasures of shooting portraits and what’s behind the dramatic atmosphere in his pictures.
Production Paradise: You shoot a broad spectrum of subjects, what is your favourite one?
Thomas: That’s easily answered; with people. Why is that? 95% of my work happens to be in the field of people and portraits. The remaining 5% I devote to product/style and landscape/cityscape themes for possible composing. There should be a bit of variety.
Production Paradise: What is the most difficult and the most interesting aspect of shooting sport?
Thomas: I think the most difficult part is the preparation. I have been shooting football matches now for many years; however, during the last two years I added other sports, like tennis, long jump and table tennis. Even though these sports were not new to me, I prepared myself thoroughly and considered how to reflect the mood. During the shooting, the most interesting thing is that regardless of how well you prepare and plan to capture the athletes’ actions, every person brings in their own personality. Again and again new and even completely unexpected situation.
Production Paradise: Do athletes make better models?
Thomas: You can’t generalise this. Athletes know their body and the particular kinetic sequences by heart but not all of them can, on demand, repeat them so as to allow the “perfect” shot to be taken. Athletes not only have to keep in mind how to move, but also their facial expression. Beyond that, teamwork between me, the photographer, and the athlete, the model, is crucial to get the best out of the setting.
Production Paradise: Your work is full of drama, what’s the creative process for you when a new project comes your way?
Thomas: A little while ago, I viewed the photos I took last year and I realised that my style has developed towards dramatic and dark scenes. I have always preferred hard light and sharp edges, especially when the background or the overall impression underlines the dark and dramatic mood. This will be my approach for the time being.
Production Paradise: How does it feel to shoot for the football club 1.FC Köln as you are born close to Cologne?
Thomas: When I was about 12 I went regularly to the stadium and watched the first team of FC Cologne. When at the age of 14 I received my first SLR camera from my father the match and the players became less and less interesting and I started to watch the photographers at the edge of the pitch rather than the players. Very soon, I was sure that I wanted to become a sports photographer. I did everything to get there – work experience/training – and at 17 I found my first agency, for whom I was shooting football matches in the Bundesliga first division as well as ice hockey. Over the years, I gradually gave up shooting for the press and concentrated on advertising and PR. I have been working in this area for many years now. Therefore, my ties with the FC Cologne first team go back a long way and are still very special to me
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