FPA Member Profile

Mark Leech – Welloffside
All Images © Mark Leech / Welloffside

Career

Highlights

  • “Left school at sixteen and somehow got a job in a darkroom in central London at Sporting Pictures photo agency.”
  • UEFA Champions League Finals (14)
  • Other UEFA Club Finals (9 ECWC + 5 UEFA, +1 on the terraces = 14)
  • FIFA World Cups (7)
  • FA Cup Finals (40 inc replays + 2 on the terraces)
  • “Don’t often bother with awards but winning the Barclays Premier League Photographer of the Twenty Seasons was a highlight.”
Q&A with Mark Leech

Nikon, Canon or Sony?
“Started with Nikon, changed to Canon in 1982, but it’s not about which gear you use. “

What came first, sport or photography?
“Football came first and still does. Never owned a camera, or knew anybody else who did until I started in photography. Thought about jacking it in after a week, having to run film back from an Arsenal vs. Liverpool match after twenty minutes for an early picture for Fleet Street. Fortunately Arsenal were so bad back then, it didn’t become such a hardship as the season progressed.”

One change for the better to improve football photography for the next generation of photographers? 
“There were probably older photographers telling me that the game was up forty years ago, so don’t listen to the negative vibes. Do your own thing, don’t send me poorer versions of what is in the newspapers, the original versions rarely impress me in the first place.”

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“My boss at Sporting Pictures once told me that it was all ’sorted’ for me to photograph Ipswich Town training on the Friday morning before an FA Cup match against Liverpool. Bobby Robson had not been informed and dragged me into his office, away from fans picking up tickets to lash into me for just turning up uninvited. We did a lot of work for the Ipswich programme then and he pointed to a big photo on his wall and shouted “ that’s what I call a photo son, something you wouldn’t know about”. I decided not to annoy him any more by telling him that I’d actually taken that photo and I made my way for the exit. “Where are you going” he bellowed. “The training pitch is out that way, make sure you call in advance next time”

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
“Something else outdoors. A groundsman would be good.”

First football match photographed?
“Hardly call it ‘photographed’, but I took a Zenit B with a 50mm lens to Arsenal v Aston Villa in the FA Cup and was sent up to do Villa attack, as they were then in Division Three. They scored a goal and I panned the ball on its way to the net, making all the players and stands at Highbury blurred, with a lovely sharp image of a ball. Laughter broke out as the negative was passed around the dark room. I’ll show them. Would love to re-create that effect one day.”

Easiest one on one subject, hardest one on one subject, and why?
“Probably the last time I did a one on one was by running on the pitch, minutes before kick off, trying to grab a quick mugshot of a new signing. “Nice camera mate”, Pop Robson of Sunderland, “Get tae fuck”, Steve Archibald of Tottenham.”

Favourite football ground to work at, and why?
“Grounds rarely improve for the better as far as photo positions are concerned, but Arsenal and Tottenham are the most comfortable, which counts for a lot at my age. The old White Hart Lane made for some great pictures, despite having to stand up and deal with the lads behind breathing down your neck, with bits of pie flying over your shoulder. Definitely kept you on your toes.”

Biggest Lesson Learnt?
“Never overrate the opposition.”

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