The IJF Judo Gallery is an archive of beauty, a layered record of win after win after joyous win and therefore it is also a diary of losses, changing plans, confirmations of level and a graphic representation of the evolution of judo.
Whether it's the evolution of the sport, of a career, of a fast-paced exchange, they will capture it.

We are used to an outstanding quality of image with perfect lines and unblemished colour. We can see contorted faces describing their owners’ exact feelings in a single snapshot of time and sometimes we can even read their backstory from that perfectly selected photograph.

Producing such high quality work over and over again might lead us to become complacent, neglecting to acknowledge the process that is followed to reach such a pinnacle, but we must acknowledge it. It is the finest sports photography, it is art, it is technological progression and it is record-keeping.

Photographer X

“Usually I stay exactly in the middle because I can see both athletes and have a full view of the mat. It’s the best angle to cover everything on the tatami.”

There are hours and hours of contests each day and it’s possible to take 10 shots in a single second, so how is it possible to select the right moments, from thousands, without missing too many?

“You have the feeling that the grip is preparing something so you start shooting. A burst of photos for one throw can be 7-10 pictures. From these we choose one, the best one. Usually it’s the middle of the technique.

Settings for the camera are done in advance, with light and colour. For each venue we test the camera. During the event the lighting doesn’t change so we check at the beginning of the competition, early morning on day 1.

The venue: vast, complex, intertwined technology

Checking the venue has to be the first thing we do: checking the situation for placing yourself at the mat, checking the desk space and internet connections.”

So the venue is ready and the cameras are ready. They’ve seen and felt a moment worth capturing. What next?

“The best pictures are when they are in the air or maybe we choose the very end of the exchange, so you can see the technique or the final scoring position clearly, to imply the power that was involved. We can have 100 pictures from one contest. I select 1 or 2 while it’s fresh in my memory and I remember exactly the moment I think will have the best image. Between one fight and the next I have already selected those, discarded the rest and am ready to work on the next contest.”

It is an incredible pace at which to work and at the World Championships it is more than a week of sustained, high octane work, producing the images that will form the diary entry for the athletes’ lives. From day one to day 8 the quality doesn’t change and tiredness or time constraints are not even acknowledged as possible reasons to accept less than perfection. The requirement is clear.

“On our website we have a really efficient system for uploading, with the possibility to tag them with the fight, the round, the athletes and more. By the end of each day the photos are online and can be searched for with these different criteria. We will also have provided photos, throughout the day, to our colleagues who are writing articles on site, working at the same speed as us. The team is well-practised and has clear lines of communication, to ensure that the right photos get to the right people at the right time. Due to the initial checks, the editing phase is minimal with usually just a crop and a quick check on the colour balance.”

A happy team.

And that’s it! From thousands of possible images, a selection of just a couple of dozen. Those images will be used and copied and saved for many years to come and most who enjoy them won’t think about the incredibly technical process that was professionally mastered by a handful of expert sports photographers. It is fitting though that the people charged with archiving such elite athletes, should be elite themselves at what they do. And they are! As evidenced in every final photo selection. 

Gabriela Sabau (ROU), Emanuele Di Feliciantonio (ITA), Marina Mayorova (RUS), Lars Moeller Jensen (DEN)
See also
Olympic Games Playbook for Athletes and Officials

17. Jun. 2021 / The International Olympic Committee just published ...

Judo for Refugees
You Can Do It! So, Do It!

17. Jun. 2021 / For World Refugee Day, which takes place on 20th June, ...

Judo for Peace Safeguarding Workshop in Malawi

16. Jun. 2021 / While hundreds of athletes, including the IJF Refugee ...

Judo for Children
IJF World Teaching Tour: Koka Kids Judo Books for All Ages and Levels

16. Jun. 2021 / It doesn’t matter where we are in the world or how ...

From Warwick to Tokyo

15. Jun. 2021 / All roads lead to Tokyo this year.

Dr Tsegaye Degineh receives the highest recognition from the Federal Republic of Germany

15. Jun. 2021 / Dr Tsegaye Degineh has received the highest recognition ...

Birmingham 2022
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Competition Schedule Announced

15. Jun. 2021 / On Tuesday 14th June 2021 the Commonwealth Games organising ...

Interviews With the Team Champions - Day 8 #JudoWorlds

15. Jun. 2021 / We caught up with one man and one woman from each of ...

Judo Worlds 2021
Team Spirit

13. Jun. 2021 / After a last intense day of judo, beautiful movements ...

2021 WC, Day 8: Technical Analysis
A Variety of Analyses: Mixed Teams

13. Jun. 2021 / The mixed team event brings an extra sparkle to the ...

Commentator Interviews
Former World Champions Unite the Whole Judo Community as New Champions are Crowned

13. Jun. 2021 / Throughout this World Judo Championships Hungary 2021, ...

Flag Passing Ceremony - 2022 Worlds in Uzbekistan

13. Jun. 2021 / Just before the final block of the last day of competition ...

27 countries with medals
Nature Abhors Emptiness

13. Jun. 2021 / Mathematics is not deceiving.

Shishime Ai (JPN)

08. Jun. 2018 / The next reigning world champion to be invited to answer ...

5 Key Takeaways from judo’s first Tokyo 2020 qualifier

06. Jun. 2018 / Highlights from Hohhot Grand Prix 2018

Judo for the World in Iran

07. Jun. 2018 / In April 2018, the International Judo Federation and ...

JUDO: A Beneficial Cause

07. Jun. 2018 / 'Society should believe in sport as a beneficial cause ...