The perfect Ryu Voelkel

Every once in a while, an individual comes along that just excels in their chosen profession.  This isn't an introduction to Leo Messi though, here's Eric Beard to tell you more.

When I finally write something perfect, I’ll stop writing and get on with my life. However, to my peril or perhaps my perennial joy, the likelihood of ever reaching this perfection is less than Ian Holloway becoming the next FIFA president given the standard from some good lads like Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Iain Macintosh, etcetera. So where reality fails, the dream suffices.

Writing is subjective, however, as with any art, the beauty encapsulated by a fine tuned artist tends to garner attention. Photography, despite its entirely different nature when it comes to attributed skill, essentially circles around the same concept. And with the football being, well, beautiful, there is a job to capture the inherent aesthetic beauty in the game. As English novelist JB Priestly said, “To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink.” The common man can appreciate football, but it takes an artist to capture the game’s essence.

With the aid of social media, one photographer has risen above the rest in football. This man is Ryu Voelkel. If I were a fellow photographer in his field, I would likely despise Ryu. His career path began with a childhood in Japan that forced him to envision European matches with his imagination based off of newspaper articles and their respective photos. It evolved into a long stateside tenure to earn a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology, quitting an entirely replicable post in London as a businessman, moving back to Japan to pursue his passion, shooting the 2005 Confederations Cup, and then settling down in a geographic epicenter of European football, Paris. Amongst all of this, Ryu and I have the same formal education in photography. That is, we have taken a single photography class in high school. No más.

This fact aside, Ryu’s unique vision and skill set was pursued by Nike this summer in the company’s World Cup campaign, which allowed him to live childhood dreams of millions with situations like sitting in the dressing room with Kaka, Maicon, and the rest of the Seleçäo before a Brazil World Cup match. Currently working as a freelance photographer traveling across Europe on a weekly basis while also working with a Japanese agency to shoot mostly Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, Espanyol’s Shinsuke Nakamura, and CSKA Moscow’s Keisuke Honda, Ryu is living the dream while still being a self-proclaimed masochist. His sense of humour is wonderfully dry.

I was grateful enough to have Ryu partake in his first ever media-related appearance on the A Football Report Podcast and his perspective is an enlightening one for any fan that enjoys aspects of football beyond Match of the Day.

AFR Podcast - Capturing the Game with Ryu Voelkel by afootballreport

Here's a link to Ryu’s Flickr and his website

Eric is the founder of and a philosophy major at Emory University. You can follow his thoughts on football (and philosophy) with him on Twitter @afootballreport.