He’s there, sitting on the floor, in the hearth of the Deurne City Classic. Away from the table where they are playing to not disturb them, but at the same time very close to the players through his Nikon zoom lens. From his corner, between two tables, he reflects, plans and shoots the photos that the pool players will look for after their match in Facebook, a special snapchots with which he conveys the emotion, the concentration, the beauty, the success and also the failure in this minority sport called Billiards. He is Jean-Philippe Parmentier, better known as JP Parmentier, a french that shoot the best american billiards tournaments in the world for eleven years, the official photographer of professional Pool who I could meet in the Deurne City Classic.
All began as a hobby in 1996. After some years playing with teenager friends that had pool tables, Parmentier started to play in a french pool club with Stephan Cohen, Laëtitia Dos Santos and Karim Belhaj (CEO of Predator). There was born his passion for billiards (he really loves the game but not the competition) and there he took his first photos, but still as an amateur. In that time he had already graduated in plastic arts and he started to work in the graphic design and videogames industry. In 2004, after working four years in Roland Garros («Before Rafa Nadal began its conquest», he jokes), he started his career as a professional billiards photographer, specially in Pool. One of his first tournaments was the women World 9 Ball Championship 2004 that took place in Rankweil (Austria). He was subsidized by the french billiard federation to follow the european champion Laëtitia Dos Santos, and there he met stars like Alison Fisher or Jennifer Barretta. After that he worked for the European Pocket Billiard Federation (EPBF), following Eurotours and European Championships, and little by little he became more known among players, institutions, brands and tournament promoters. Since then, his pics and reports are published in magazines like Billiard Digest, Biljart Total or Pool & Billiards Magazine, inter alia.
I try to put professional sense and vision to a small sport
«I try to put professional sense and vision to a small sport», says Parmentier. «It’s sure that we are not as professionals as tennis or golf, but we must act as if we were», he insists. That’s his great virtue and his work philosophy, doing a photo, making a video or designing the official poster for the Mosconi Cup. It is much more than shoot: when he is going to take a photo he seeks that the player or event sponsors are well seen, that he don’t disturb the player and that the photo is not awkward. If it is, he don’t publish it.
A lot of players come to me to pick up his sponsor patch before his match
In Deurne I could see that Parmentier has a fairly close relationship with most players. Insomuch that a lot of them come to him before his match to pick up his sponsor patch. The brands, like Predator, Kamui or Longoni, know it and they send the patches to Parmentier. So, the players, professionals but sometimes clueless, can show the stamp with which they earn some money. During the interview, two players come in search of ther patch. Removed plastic, placed patch and play. That easy.
«My greatest satisfaction came the day that Matchroom contacted me to be the official photographer in his amazing pool events», recognize Parmentier. Today has already photographed about 15 tournaments organized by the company of Barry Hearn, the first of them the 2008 World Pool Masters won by Alex Pagulayan. He has also participated in all the Mosconi Cup since that year and in various editions of the World Cup of Pool tournament which replaced the old World Pool League. Pool is his specialty but also has been in three cushion World Championships and Agipi Masters. What he has not photographed yet is Snooker, as there is no such freedom of movement and photographers often have to take pictures from behind glass so the noise will not disturb the players.
My greatest satisfaction came the day that Matchroom contacted me to be the official photographer in his amazing pool events
Everyone knows that to achieve good results in pool pics is very complicated: there is very little light, the color of the cloth is reflected in players faces, the camera noise bothers… So, first he had to understand all these difficulties to take good photos: «One should imbibe of knowledge before going to shoot without thinking». In their favor has the fact of having sponsorship from brands like Nikon or Lowepro yield him all the material he need, allowing him to save any technical impediment. With zoom lenses he can take photos from a large distance without disturbing the player and achieve more emotional close-ups, always respecting the players. In fact, one of their rituals consists in sitting on the floor and shoot photos from there. It is the only way to see the eyes of the players when they go down to the shot. «My best pictures are those that have shooted sitting on the ground,» he says.
Hard work, passion for this sport, good connexions in the billiards world, a close relationship with the players and a privileged position with their sponsors. Those are the keys to success of Jean-Philippe Parmentier as a photographer of Pool, practically the only one who is professionally engaged in it. And it’s still one more virtue. As a player said one day, their photos have the incredible ability to beautify any thing and any moment, including the worst tournament or the failure of a straight ball. Chapeau, Parmentier.
Photos by JP Parmentier
Este artículo se publicó originalmente en español