In 2013, French photographer Franҫois-Xavier Thiébaud published a book of poker images taken over a period of three years at the European Poker Tour stop in Berlin. His photography from those events has now left the printed format and is available as reprints at an internet photo gallery called GALLMO. The limited-edition reprints are an asset to everybody who works, lives or spends time in any way in the poker industry. In the first part of a new series on poker photography PokerListings Germany's Christian Henkel spoke to Thiébaud about his work and its meaning.
Photographing a Poker Tournament is Calm, Comparatively
Thiébaud is used to fighting for a little time and space to get his shots.
Working as a press photographer for different magazines and newspapers he often has just a split second when the perfect moment appears in the perfect light and perfect position.
Plus, even if you find that exact moment, you will have to fight with other photographers trying to push each other out of the way to get themselves into the optimal spot.
“Compared to that working at a poker tournament is quite relaxing and calm,” Thiébaud says.
The 36-year-old Frenchman knows what he’s talking about. From 2010 to 2012, he was accompanying the European Poker Tour stop in Berlin.
The result of three years of work was a picture book called Poker Faces, a 108-page collection of black-and-white images taken at EPT Berlin - one of the largest poker events in Europe. The EPT marked Thiébaud’s first contact with a completely new world.
“Before that I only knew poker as a pastime with friends. Then I entered this parallel universe, and I was floored by the professional atmosphere in it. The ambience is truly special and you meet a lot of interesting people. There is a high level of focus and excitement at the same time.”
It's the Emotion of Poker That Stands Out
On any given day at the EPT Thiébaud would press the button up to 1,500 times. About 100 of the images make it through to the second round of selection.
Eventually Thiébaud came up with a collection of poker moments that capture success as well as failure, and often the tenacity that is so essential in poker.
Always it’s the emotion that stands out. Very few players will be able to look at the pocket aces image without feeling that rush to the head only this hand can produce.
“The most astonishing thing for me was that a game that is supposed to be so controlled, unemotional and ice-cold generates so many archetypical human facial expressions.”
A lot of international players have been an inspiration to Thiébaud and his work, inclu.
Fine Art of Poker Shows in the Ordinary Moments
Rare images, like the talisman-card-protector cross from his collection, are exceptions.
“Absolute poker fine art," however, shows itself not in the extraordinary but the ordinary – in the moments that show the basics of poker.
The picture showing Ben Wilinofsky and Max Heinzelmann playing heads-up for the title in 2011 is more of an example of the simple power poker can convey.
If you're interested in having one of Franҫois-Xavier Thiébaud’s pictures embellish your home or office, you can purchase them here.
The internet gallery GALLMO is working with several high profile photographers, among them Franz Kovacs (BBC Wildlife photographer of the year 2008) and Leonardo Tommasin (worked for Vogue Italia and Cosmopolitan, Secret Cinema).
In an ongoing look at photography PokerListings will present the works of professional photographers here in the Guest Blog. We're also looking for promising artists so if you think you know somebody who should get more attention by the media, drop us a message.
The Artist: Franҫois-Xavier Thiébaud
*January 15, 1978, Besanҫon, France
Franҫois-Xavier Thiébaud found his love for photography when he was 14 years old.
He was fascinated by artists like Jean-Loup Sieff, Henri Cartier-Besson, Irving Penn and the Magnum photographers.
When he was only 16 he started taking courses in photography for amateurs but then had to put aside his passion for art for financial reasons.
It wasn't until 2003 when he got back into taking pictures. Now that digital photography had become an everyday thing, photography was a lot more affordable than in the past.
Today Thiébaud works for different agencies and print media including Vogue, Gala and others. Thiébaud also studied photography at Mathias Richter’s Imago Fotokunst.
In 2010 he opened his own studio so he could focus on fashion and advertising photography alongside his love for black-and-white pictures.
Thiébaud is also the chairman of the French-German Photography Association. The picture book Poker Faces was made with the support of Casino Berlin.