Eric Lafargue, a monument to sports photography, will be taking his last pictures this Thursday in La Praille. After turning his passion into his profession, the Genevan bears witness to his evolution. Servette is going to celebrate with dignity.
Eric Lafargue is first and foremost an eye. The one who sees, who selects, who feels the moment to better capture what is happening there. The man has always photographed sports, which has become a lifelong passion through his lenses. He captures the beauty and the emotions it has brought about since 1981. Always the right framing, the right moment, the right photo, recognizable by everyone. Like an inimitable signature. Under the sign of the agency he founded in his name (Lafargue Photos Sports), the image man flooded the French-language editorial boards, mainly those of the Geneva Tribune.
Forty years after a first photo (that of a match in the 2nd league in Geneva between Vernier and the Italian CS) in the defunct Sports weekthe Genevan will say goodbye to the profession on Thursday evening in La Praille, on the sidelines of Servette-Basel.
After millions of shots, how does he imagine his last photo, that of the final blow? Ideally, he replies, I dream of a bicycle in the skylight that gives Servette the victory in the 95th minute. It will be an important photo anyway, because it will be the last.
Celebrated by Servette
This May 19 there will have been others, where this time he will be on the other side of the mirror, the protagonist of what Servette reserves for the one who remains his official photographer for a few more hours. If he doesn’t know the details, Eric Lafargue knows that a party is being prepared in his honor. “It is huge, agrees the future retiree, moved. I had never seen that for a photographer. It even seems unimaginable to me…” Maybe the opportunity to get a… framed poster of the photographer in action in return.
Capturing the beauty of the gesture
If he has shot all sports (athletics, tennis, figure skating, etc.) during his career, the football he has covered the most is football. What he always liked, if not sought, is stopping the moment, staging the beauty of the game. With a sensitivity set up like a “grenade” thread, the constantly renewed need to magnify what he sees. With a preference for scenes of joy, cheers, especially after a goal, even if he has always been able to capture the moments of sadness and disappointment inherent in sports.
“What I like the most, he says about his approach, is to bring out the beauty of the sporty gesture. I don’t steal anything, I shoot… I was asked one day to become a paparazzi, I had a lot of money can earn, I refused.
Over time, the Genever has necessarily encountered hundreds of footballers. At Les Charmilles and then at La Praille, the Barberis, Besnard (first as a player), Schnyder, Favre, Rummenigge, Eriksen and other Karembeu paraded. “There has always been respect between them and me, sometimes even a kind of tenderness…” Who struck him the most? Strict question. Our interlocutor thinks about it for a long time. “Maybe José Sinval because he was disturbing, twisting and spectacular at the same time. He was the real Brazilian. To speak of an artist in his case is not an exaggeration…”
His profession, of which he followed the technological evolution, has changed enormously. And has football gone through a similar evolution? “Tactically, Eric Lafargue replies, we play less intelligently. In finesse we have lost many things. There are fewer artists and more athletes. Gestures have disappeared, others have appeared…”
An offer from Chenois
The young teenager was destined to become a sports teacher, he could also have started a professional career. “When I was in college, I had been offered an offer to come and play with Chênois, who was then playing in the LNA …” This memory awakens another, further away, as the boy was wearing out his pants on the Trembley field, in Varembe. “With International, which would later become Interstar, we lost 15-0 to Servette in junior C.” Already a first link with grenade.
Shooting football, being the privileged witness, is also finding the best angles at the edge of the field. “I have moved often. In recent years I prefer to position myself near a corner post. I used to place myself more at the height of the sixteen meter line. Every corner brings a new point of view.”
Müller and Vogel, juniors in Meyrin
From a lifetime of images, some incredibly strong moments remain, photos that have become legendary, such as those, still in black and white, of Johann Vogel and Patrick Müller, E junioren at Meyrin in 1985, long before we embraced the international career that we know. Or Paolo Diogo’s bloodied finger, who clung to the fence and suffered a phalanx in front of Geneva’s head after a goal in Schaffhausen in 2004.
There were also some failures, such as the Euro 2008 final between Spain and Germany in Vienna (1-0, goal by Torres). “I don’t have the photo of the goal, or rather, I just framed it badly. At that point in the match I had too large a telephoto lens. I certainly have the German goalkeeper on the ground, but I only have the striker’s feet.
Eric Lafargue, the creator of emotions, will never abandon the photo, but reject his artistic sense in new ways of expression, perhaps writing. He could tell of his hundreds of nights driving through Switzerland on his return from a race that took him to the other side of the country, the equivalent of 54 times around the world. The man wanted to end his professional life on Thursday evening in Geneva, with the club of his heart. This weekend he and his family will celebrate the birthday of one of his grandchildren. The kick-off of another life.
A photo is a click that freezes (you) an image in eternity. Eric Lafargue has spent 40 years living on the edge of lawns or ice rinks, juggling thousands of shots, multiplying rapidly.
Ultimately, the number of still images is staggering: in addition to nearly 900,000 negatives, all duly listed, the photographer from Le Vaud (where he moved in 2019)… has some 5.7 million photos stored digitally. “I must have pressed the shutter button 7 million times,” he calculates.
At thousandths of a second (the shutter speed in a sports mode case), that’s about 7,000 seconds of work, which, transformed over the duration of a match, doesn’t fully include overtime – 117 minutes.
The passion of a life that will soon be expressed differently. “What awaits me is even more beautiful than what I’ve experienced, it’s the start of something else. I’ve been imagining and preparing for this moment for a long time…” Another life where weekends will no longer be reduced to thousandths of a second. “I must have put too many passions on hold not to explore them now,” he concludes, a philosopher. NJR