A rowing photographer’s time to reflect
World Rowing photographer, Igor Meijer and photographers like him are among the millions feeling the pinch of this pandemic on their businesses. He is currently out of work due to the pandemic, which has canceled most sports, worldwide.
For more than 20 years, Meijer has captured millions of shots of rowers before, during and after regattas. From local races to Olympic Games to the last World Rowing Indoor Championships, he was there to shoot it all. Meijer was getting ready for another hectic year of rowing regattas when he found out his passion - and professional activity - would have to be put on hold.
Now based in Normandy, France, 200 kilometres away from his apartment in Paris, he is respecting France’s strict lockdown - social-distancing, tinkering, doing a lot of sports and some nature photos. Far away from boats and oars. He knows the foreseeable future will be a very unique time, where there won’t be racing, but also a time when we can get all of the little projects done. And reflect about two decades of rowing.
Meijer would normally spend his days looking for the perfect shot.
“Contrary to popular belief,” says Meijer, “time goes by slowly during a race - apart from the finish line. Therefore, it’s hard to have a very dynamic picture. Patience and observation are so important, you need to find the right spot, taking into consideration the sun, the light, the overall atmosphere. And keeping in mind the distance between your objective and the rower. Whether you are on the pontoon, or even sometimes on water, you are so much focused on you photo that you can distract the competitor - that’s the worst thing that can happen to a photographer.”
Generally, former rowers make good rowing photographers but above all, it’s the passion that matters the most. The experience of hundreds of regattas helps Meijer in his job.
“I go to the rowing course very early to find my spot,” says Meijer. “I have an idea in mind and even if it does not turn out quite the way I wanted; I want to make it happen. I know that I can’t shoot everything because of where I am on the rowing course. It’s a matter of experience, and a little bit of luck.”
Being at the right place, at the right time, can’t be taught. Meijer remembers a photo of the New Zealand double, Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell, taken in Lucerne in 2006.
“I did not sleep at all the night before, and I went very early on the rowing course,” explains Meijer. “I was walking with my camera in my hand, I saw a boat on water, jumping from the shadows to the light, and I just took the photo. At the end of the day, I didn’t even remember that I took this photo. This is one of the best I made and I was very lucky.”
Attending World Rowing regattas, Meijer has travelled all around the world. He enjoys working in Seville or Munich for “the light, the beauty of the water” or being in Bled and Aiguebelette. He loves the rowing community, where, “you can forget your camera on a pontoon, like I did a couple years ago in Banyoles when I went jogging, and find it back a couple of hours later in the same spot” or “work with rowers like the Sinkovic brothers that are very friendly.”
Meijer could talk about rowing all day long. He is missing the sound of the oars and the boats. “I’ve never experienced such a situation. I remember the Sydney 2000 Olympics where races were postponed due to a strong wind and it was hard for everybody to wait. But we knew, even with a tight schedule, we would have some racing. Today, uncertainty is really hard to cope with.”
Meijer can’t wait to be back on a rowing course and shoot the best photo possible.In the meantime he shares with us some of his favourite photos.