Self-taught Spanish photographer Pedro Luís Ajuriaguerra Saiz (1st Classified, Sports in Action, SIPA 2018) describes himself as a quiet, shy, easygoing person — unless he has a camera in his hands.
Discovering his passion for photography in 2011 brought out a fiery, competitive side of himself that even he didn’t expect.
“With a camera, I become a predator of images, always on the lookout for important shots and thirsty for ‘blood’ (new photographs),” he said via email in an exclusive interview for WorldWide.
In fact, Ajuriaguerra Saiz is now known in Spain as “The Shark” (tiburón in Spanish) of photography.
As he developed his now award-winning photography career, Ajuriaguerra Saiz was drawn to two seemingly disparate genres: sports and architecture. Yet, they really aren’t very different when it comes to approach and style, he says.
“Undoubtedly, they are very different types of photography, but the search for impossible angles and perspectives in architecture is similar to my desire to capture unique compositions in sports,” Ajuriaguerra Saiz reflects, when asked what drew him to his particular areas of focus.
“Sports photography is exciting and helps me to understand certain aspects of sports professionals on a deeper level. On the other hand, architectural photography is more leisurely and relaxing. I think this mixture is great for me. And sometimes I like to put both together in one shot, like my well-known photographs of athletes at the Red Bull cliff diving competition that merge the plasticity of the divers with the architecture of the Guggenheim in Bilbao.”
Ajuriaguerra Saiz also wants to continue to elevate both genres, especially sports photography.
“One of my main goals is to place sports photography where it deserves,” he says. “It’s not always highly valued, perhaps due to the immediacy of the work and the added difficulty of being creative when shooting sporting events. I am pleased that there are currently excellent sports photographers around the world who are helping to change this perception.”
For Ajuriaguerra Saiz , who is especially passionate about boxing photography, one of his most inspiring contemporaries is photographer Neil Leifer, who earned his first Sports Illustrated cover shot in 1962 at just 19 years old and whose most famous image is that of Muhammad Ali defeating Sonny Liston.
“That is why I say I identify with Neil Leifer myself,” Ajuriaguerra Saiz says. “Boxing photography is my passion and little by little, it is being reborn — both in terms of a resurgence of elite boxing and sports photography — in Spain.”
Ajuriaguerra Saiz is also inspired by sports photography pioneer Charles M. Conlon, Toni Frisell, the first female photographer to have work published by Sports Illustrated and Walter Iooss Jr., who shot more than 330 covers for the magazine in his long career. Like Ajuriaguerra Saiz, Iooss once described his passion for making images as something of a hunger, a desire to find and immortalize impossible moments:
“The real joy of photography is these moments. I’m always looking for freedom, the search for the one-on-one. That’s when your instincts come out. I’ve been lucky enough to have people hire me to do that. Sports Illustrated never really restricts me. They want me to do what I do. It’s the discovery. It’s still magic.”–Walter Iooss Jr.
What makes a great image versus a good one? For Ajuriaguerra Saiz , it all comes down to the heart.
“Of course it must surprise and impact — it must enter our eyes and reach the heart. A great photograph is like a story with a strong narrative that leaves us with a metaphor or fable to consider.”
So what’s next for Ajuriaguerra Saiz, who has earned more than 100 awards for his work? He offers a simple, yet powerful answer:
“I would like to continue feeding the predator that I carry within me with fabulous images and great life moments,” he says.
“El Tiburón” is also stalking a great sports moment he’s dreaming of — capturing Spanish pro boxer Kerman Lejarraga raising the world champion’s belt in Bilbao or Madison Square Garden in New York City.