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Independence day – Kerim Okten on award-winning sports photography

1st Prize Sports Feature Stories: Nadja feeling better just before her last treatment. Lidingö, Sweden. Swedish athlete Nadja Casadei has participated in the World and European Championships in heptathlon © Peter Holgersson, Sweden

Image © Peter Holgersson

With access to the best technology and the best shooting spots, sports photographers working for big organisations seem to have all the advantages. Not so, says Kerim Okten, chair of the sports jury for the 2014 World Press Photo

“Do sports photographers have less freedom [than other photographers]? Yes and no,” says Kerim Okten, chair of the sports jury for the 2014 World Press Photo. “For sports photographers, often the key target is to capture the decisive moment in the sport – it is what the audience and the industry are looking for most. It is not a limit, but it is a guidance. Also, as technology is going forward, sports photographers are using it. Clever colleagues find new perspectives with it, it brings different angles and views…but it is expensive, you could say it is limited to the producers working for big organisations. There are also the designated spots [in which the photographers have to stand in big sporting events, which are given to the bigger organisations], so for those working for boutique agencies, or for independent freelancers, it can be difficult to reach these pictures.

“On the other hand, what is given to them is the opportunity to find another solution,” he continues. “The photographers working for big agencies have to compete with each others’ images – that is one of their disadvantages. The others are able to bring new angles – that is difficult, but it is an advantage. When you look at the winners in the sporting categories, they are not necessarily the photographers working for the bigger organisations. In the Sports Feature category, we had a freelancer from Bulgaria [Anastas Tarpanov, who won second prize in Sports Feature (singles)], and in Sports Feature (stories) we had a beautiful black-and-white story by a freelancer from Sweden [Peter Holgersson, who won first prize and whose image is featured above]. All these things show us that the photographers who are working for the big organisations do not always have an advantage.”