PtG Article 10.04.2008

Photographer Niels Nyholm in memoriam

On Monday 7 April, Play the Game lost a close friend and collaborator, while sport for all lost one of its most important eyewitnesses. After a long struggle with cancer, Danish press photographer Niels Nyholm died at the age of 62.

Photographer Niels Nyholm, friend and collaborator of Play the Gam

Few photographers, if any, have drawn as varied, compassionate, humorous and engaging a picture of everyday sport as it unfolds far away from Olympic intrigue and media hype.

Niels Nyholm had a unique talent for capturing the kindergarten child, the boy footballer, the elite gymnast, the pub footballer, the pensioner – all these apparently ordinary people – in the moment where they forget themselves out of commitment, thereby becoming extraordinarily relevant and meaningful for the rest of us.

Through thousands of pictures, Niels documented the endless opportunities embedded in the kind of sport that does not satisfy itself with blind ambition and narrow focus on achievement, but aims at developing complete people and fruitful communities.

It was my privilege to benefit from Niels’s personal and professional qualities during my years as an editor at the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations.  So it was evident that Niels became our conference photographer when we started Play the Game in 1997 and at every Play the Game event since then.

As a rule, a conference is not the most intriguing and appetising setting you can imagine as a photographer. But over five conferences, Niels transformed a presumably predictable and boring task into a catching testimony that reflected the atmosphere, intensity and human interaction.

At Play the Game 2007 last autumn, while undergoing a long-lasting cancer treatment, Niels again displayed his positive energy and care for his mission and for the people surrounding him, working from early morning until late in the evening – except for a few breaks where he went jogging around Reykjavik.

His commitment was infectious, and he ensured that the impression of lectures, debates and corridor talks is preserved for much longer than it stands in our fragile memories.

We will miss an excellent photographer, an inspiring colleague and a much-loved human being.

Jens Sejer Andersen, director of Play the Game, was editor-in-chief at the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations (DGI) from 1990 to 2003.