Media Tribune #13, Waterside with Getty Images photographer Chung Sung-Jun

  • July 16, 2019
Getty Images photographer Chung Sung-Jun (middle) in action at the 2017 LPGA of Japan Tour

Jeroen Adriaanse, AIPS Young Reporter, the Netherlands

YEOSU, July 16, 2019 – Seoul-based photographer Chung Sung-Jun has gone on to carve a successful career in sports photography, bringing his beloved Canon 1DX Mark II with him everywhere he goes.
The Korean Getty Images photographer has had nothing handed to him, however, as he spoke exclusively to AIPS at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park during the 18th FINA World Championships.

How did you develop an interest in photography?
“I immediately fell in love with photography the moment I saw a book published by the Magnum Photo agency during my time as a university student. I decided to quite university, but failed to break into the industry as my mum passed away in that period and I barely made ends meet. In 1994, I finally got the opportunity to turn professional as I joined the AFP after having studied the profession of sports photography by myself. I joined Getty Images six years later as a freelance photographer and covered the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea, officially becoming part of the full-time staff in 2014.”

Which sports events have you covered since joining Getty Images as a pool photographer?
“I went to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, both events were really fun. But I also love to cover soccer games and I am really passionate about golf, so once a month I go out to follow a golf tournament. I have also covered the Presidents Cup and I am currently working at the FINA World Championships.”

What do you like the most about sport journalism?
“Shooting the perfect picture is what makes me the most happy. When I try to capture player emotions, I can feel their happiness or pain as well – I know immediately whether the picture I just shot is a good one or not, and I can definitely feel the excitement rushing through my body once I get things right.”

What are the main issues that the sports media profession needs to tackle?
“I often notice that some sports photographers do not actually know the rules of the event they are about to cover. For instance, at the open water swimming events here at the World Championships, athletes have to drink at 10km events while this is not the case for a 5km event. I see photographers not being positioned correctly or missing out on the action because they are not aware of this. We, but especially the younger generation, have to stay curious and willing to learn about all sorts of sports to understand what set of actions and decisions could produce the best images.”

What’s the most difficult coverage you’ve made? Why?
“Any golf tournament is not easy to cover, as I have to walk like five kilometres while bringing the gear with me as well. When the athlete lines up his or her shot, we cannot move and have to stay where we are. And as he or she hits the ball, we also cannot take any pictures because it has to be completely silent. These factors make it difficult to work at such events. But when it comes to golf I have learned to either move ahead or stay behind the pack to give myself more distance, working with long-focus lenses to capture the action.”

AIPS Young Reporter Jeroen Adriaanse (left) with Getty Images photographer Chung Sung-Jun (right) at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park Open Water Swimming Competition Venue during the 18th FINA World Championships.

What lessons did you learn that are worth sharing?
“The most important lesson I learned is to develop a personal style. Every photographer will approach things differently and it is important to know what you personally want to achieve when taking a picture. You are in control of the whole process yourself, so make sure you stand out by staying true to your own style and do not be afraid to develop and work on it throughout your career.”

The profession is constantly changing. What is the situation now?
“There are too many photographers at sport events I would say. Like at the 10km men’s open water swimming event in Yeosu, it is difficult to move around and get into position. I am a pool photographer, so I am lucky and can get in the positions anyways. But there are a lot of photographers who are not and I feel sorry for them – we are all photographers at the end of the day. At the same time the organisers cannot do much about it, with agencies always coming first. But I would like to see every photographer getting the same opportunity and more space to do their work.”

Speaking of evolution, what’s your preferred format for consuming news?
“As a photographer, it has to be Instagram. I mainly use it to share my own personal photos, because thanks to today’s technologies I can select  and send the best images from my camera straight to my phone. But I also use Instagram to see what my colleagues are posting. This can sometimes be inspiring, to understand what techniques they are using. I can learn from them as well.”
Which advice would you give to your younger self?
“Too enjoy the sport events I have covered in the past more. Because when I was younger it was all about working hard to break into the industry and I did not really enjoy my personal development and the tournaments I covered as much as I do now.”
What do you think about the AIPS Sport Media Award?
“It is a very good initiative and I feel like it could also be a success if organised in Seoul at some point in the future. At the moment the sports media organization in South Korea is pretty conservative, with only a small amount of members, wanting to protect their own market. But many sports photographers could actually benefit from the Awards in a sense that they feel recognized for their work.”
How can an award help the future generations of journalists?
“I think the Awards could inspire upcoming journalists and sports photographers to develop a more international focus too. For the major sports events you have to apply for accreditation and with the help of AIPS, I think in the future more journalists from South Korea could be motivated to apply and cover international sports events on a larger scale.”
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