Seasoned sport photographer, André Olivier, has immensely contributed to the profiling of new talent and women’s sport by capturing their performances as well as their accomplishments.
In 2014, Olivier, who was previously inspired by his daughter’s athletic participation, ventured into sports photography, and has not looked back ever since.
He uses his photography to showcase the athletes in action to promote the different sporting codes that will hopefully draw the attention of potential sponsors for athletes, as well as possible scholarships to leading institutions for the student athletes.
Olivier’s enthusiasm and support for women’s sport over the years has contributed to the stories of female athletes being shared, which continues to elevate the sport as well as the new talent that we need to keep an eye out for.
Speaking with Babsie Kutwana, Olivier details his journey of photography and support for women’s sport.
Hi André, thanking for taking the time to chat. Please share your photography journey with us and how it led to sports photography?
I have always had an interest in photography. I was trained as a photographer in the early 90s in the South African Police Service (SAPS). I started sports photography when my own daughter started to do sprints in primary school. I was at all the meetings and always the only one with a proper camera. So, it started as I saw all the parents next to the track trying to take pictures of their children with old cellphones.
Did you have a different career before you went into photography?
I work as a freelance motoring journalist and also a member of the SA Guild of Motoring journalists.
What sparked your interest in photography?
From my schooldays I always took pictures of cars and then specifically of people on the street and wildlife imagery. In those days we did not have digital cameras, so it was a very expensive hobby with all the film rolls. I worked in the SAPS dark room and photo lab for almost 5 years as well.
You have contributed to female athletes being documented through photography, what else inspired that direction other than photographing your daughter?
I love athletics and had childhood heroes like Zola Budd, Karen Botha nee Kruger, Hestrie Cloete and Charmaine Gaile. I always followed their careers but could never pursue being a sports photographer because of other work and mainly the financial impact that buying all the equipment had. I finally decided in 2014 to just jump and do it.
“My aim as a photographer is twofold, firstly to give every athlete a picture of their performance or accomplishment and secondly to promote our beautiful sport.” – Sports Photographer, André Olivier
How do you feel women’s sport can be better supported, especially from a photography point of view?
I think our athletes are very well supported by our photographers. My aim as a photographer is twofold, firstly to give every athlete a picture of their performance or accomplishment and secondly to promote our beautiful sport and try and lift the profile of our athletes. This supports the fact that they can secure sponsorships or scholarships with leading institutions and brands.
What made you focus on varsity/school sports more than the mainstream professionals with the big names?
The day I stood next to that primary school track and saw the parents trying to take pictures of their children with cell phones I decided that this should be my focus. I followed many of the now professional athletes from school days, but I still feel every athlete deserves a picture when they enter a race or competition.
Which female athletes do you think we should keep an eye out for and why?
There are actually a couple of young athletes that I think can do very big things in South African track and field. Tonya Schoeman from Mossel bay comes to mind, she will be one of our all-time greats. She is 12 years old and already a Laser run SA champ. Izandri Jacobs is another 14-year-old athlete from Montana High School in Pretoria, she trains with Carmie Prinsloo and is one of the best 800m,1500m and 3000m runner I have ever seen.
Then if we look at junior women, I would say Carmie Prinsloo as well as Marione Fourie that won Gold in the 100mh at the Junior as well as the Senior SA this year. When we look at our senior woman then there is Zeney van der Walt in the 400m, one of the best 400m athlete’s in our history and she is 21 years old with international titles as the 2017 World Youth Champion, 2018 World Junior Champion and 2019 SA Senior Champion, World Student silver medallist.
What has been your career highlight in capturing moments in women’s sport?
Being on track that day in 2018 when Zeney ran Wenda Nel very close at the Senior SA’s in Pretoria. Zeney ran her PB (Personal Best time) of 55,05 that day.
What keeps you motivated in continuing to document women’s sport?
My love for the sport and the fact that anything can happen at any moment, any record can go at any meeting. That is the nature of the sport and our female athletes are on such a high that it is very difficult to predict where the next record will come from.
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to get into sports photography, particularly sports photography?
Just do it but start at primary school level to get used to the field positions and the rhythm of a track and field meeting. Get the right equipment, not a lot, just a monopod, good quality camera with a telephoto lens at least 300mm and shoot, shoot, shoot. Practise makes perfect.
Photo Caption: Sport photographer, André Olivier, is playing his part promoting women’s sport from local to national level. Photo: Supplied/André Olivier