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article imageBehind the Lens: Mike Lewis talks about swimming photography Special

By Markos Papadatos     Dec 4, 2019 in Sports
Acclaimed sports photographer Mike Lewis chatted with Digital Journal about his career photographing swimmers, and he shared his insights on how technology has impacted the sport; moreover, he offered advice for young and aspiring photographers.
"It felt great. It has been a tremendous honor to sign with USA Swimming as their official photographer in April. That was an honor beyond words. I am very excited to move my work with the preeminent swimming organization in the world," he said.
For Lewis, it has been equally exciting to work with the International Swimming League (ISL). "I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities that are finding their way into my life right now," he said.
On the impact of technology on the sport of swimming, he said, "Technology has assisted with the digitization of photography. It changes the immediacy of things, where it helps speed things up. I started in film photography, and I think it's great, just like vinyl records are great. The ease and the ability to work and edit images on the computer is obviously great."
He underscored that his background as a swimmer has helped him become a better photographer. "That informs how I see the sport. I definitely think that is a big part of the recipe that creates my work," he said.
When asked about his proudest professional moments, he responded, "It hard to just pick one moment. I really try to stay present and in the moment. I am very fortunate and I get to exercise my creative passion in the sport that I have been participating in since I was eight years old, and I still swim six times a week." "The goal with my work is to hold up a mirror to the sport that I love and the sport that means so much to me and say 'look how cool you are' and 'look how cool this sport is.' If that's what my work does, it's a tremendous success. It's not about me. It's about the sport that I love."
"Swimming is where my heart is and it's a part of my DNA," the California-based photographer added.
For young and aspiring sports photographers, Lewis encouraged them to "take a ton of pictures." "Don't be afraid to fail and make mistakes. You should embrace your failures because that is the breeding ground for creative innovation," he said. "Don't expect that everything you do will be perfect. We all have bad days and we all have challenges. Also, have fun with it. If you don't have fun with it, then it's not the right creative expression. We all have great avenues that we can express our creativity. Don't try to compare yourself to other people. I respect other people's visions. We all have a very unique and interesting perspective and let that come out in your work."
Most impressive about Lewis is that he encouraged people to not be afraid to go out and fail. "I need to go out and try something new and different. If I fail, I fail. If I don't try, then I will just keep doing the same thing, and I try to refrain from that," he said.
Regarding the title of the current chapter of his life, he said, "Gratitude."
The best advice that he was ever given is the following: "Do the right thing and don't worry." "It's a very difficult piece of advice to live by," he said.
For Lewis, the biggest compliment in his line of work is when his subjects tell him that they feel comfortable on the other side of his camera. "If I can make people comfortable, and put that mirror that showcases how cool our sport really is, then that's all good to me. That makes me very happy and fulfilled," he said.
Lewis is a huge supporter of the USA Swimming Foundation and their work to build champions and save lives. "Drowning is preventable and we can solve that. The foundation is actively engaged in spreading the message in helping programs expose people to swimming," he said. "Swimming is more than a sport, it is a life skill. If you are comfortable in the water you can do so many things that only swimming can give you access to."
He defined the word success as "always being grateful for the opportunities that are in front of you today."
To learn more about veteran sports photographer Mike Lewis, check out his official Ola Vista Photography website.
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