Sports photographer Mark Leech captures the incredible emotion, culture of soccer in the U.K.


posted Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 12:42 PM EDT


For many sports fans, their beloved memories are best represented by iconic images. Sports photographers like Mark Leech are responsible for capturing the highs, lows and sometimes crucial social context surrounding what are ultimately children’s games. Leech is a United Kingdom-based soccer (football as it’s known in most parts of the world) photographer with a storied career, including winning the Barclays’s “20 Seasons of the Premier League” award for best photographer. In the video below created by Joe Devine, we get an inside look at Leech’s life and career.

Despite being a prominent photographer, Leech has humble beginnings. He dropped out of school at 15 and moved to London. He wanted to become a sports journalist, but didn’t pass enough of his exams in England to meet minimum requirements. Nonetheless, he went into a sports journalism business and he was handed a camera and the title of trainee sports photographer. Apparently, Leech is a natural because he had images published on back pages the very next day. Fast-forward to more modern soccer shooting and Leech still utilizes techniques such as manual focus in his work. When shooting the chaos in front of the goal, despite vast advances in autofocus technology, the camera still can’t read your mind and could focus on the wrong player. In cases like these, Leech uses manual focus override. Warning: There is mild not-safe-for-work language in the video below

In England, as is the case in much of the world, soccer is not simply a game, it's a culture. Leech's work doesn't begin or end on the sidelines, but rather involves working outside the stadium, capturing the fans (or in some cases, hooligans). One of the toughest tasks for a photojournalist such as Leech is to capture images that will engage the viewer even if they don't fully understand the context of the shot or the subjects themselves. This is an area where composition, light and color are so important. Leech has made his career capturing sports images that stand out, even to those who may not understand the game, due to their aesthetic qualities.

To learn more about Mark Leech and his career, read an excellent interview with the creator of the above video, Joe Devine, from last year.

(Seen via Reddit)