Limerick photographer's inspirational image wins top award

Diarmuid Greene's picture takes PPAI prize

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Limerick photographer's inspirational image wins top award

Diarmuid Greene’s award winning photo of Paralympic athlete Juan José Méndez Fernández taken in Brazil

IT WAS SOUND and not sight that led to Pallasgreen man Diarmuid Greene winning the prestigious sports action category at the Press Photographers Association of Ireland awards.

Diarmuid was covering the Paralympics for Sportsfile in Brazil last year. Camped out in the “middle of nowhere” he was taking shots of a road race.

“You can position yourself on the finish line or you can go and get a scenic picture which is what I planned to do. By doing that it meant I couldn’t get a finish line picture so you are taking the risk of not getting the big celebration picture,” said Diarmuid.

The man in the photo with pain etched on his face is Juan José Méndez Fernández from Spain.

“You can see he is coming up a hill. Before I saw him I could hear him - every turn of the pedal he was roaring. It made the hairs stand up on my neck - it was powerful. He was pushing through the pain. The next thing I saw was the yellow helmet and I could see through the lens he was one of the most disabled athletes, missing an arm and a leg. He was the only competitor to be missing two limbs on one side of his body.

“I must have taken about 10 pictures in the couple of seconds as he passed me. I looked at the camera and I immediately knew…” said Diarmuid, who called it One arm. One leg. No Limits.

He posted it on social media and the comments flooded it. It’s a cliche but it does paint a thousand words.

“One of the girls at the Paralympics Anne McCarthy, who worked with Sport Ireland, put it as her screensaver because she says it is so inspiring. Not that the picture is incredible but the story is. These athletes are inspirational. You wake up on a wet and cold Monday morning and you mightn’t be enthusiastic about going out doing your daily stuff but when you see people like that and the struggles they have gone through... He cycled 70kms in two hours - basically 35kms an hour with one leg and one arm on that terrain which is uphill and downhill. It is beyond comprehension to me,” said Diarmuid.

Juan José Méndez Fernández, who lost his limbs in a motorbike crash, contacted Diarmuid to thank him.

“That was amazing. He is a serious athlete. It is nice when somebody appreciates your work,” said Diarmuid, who is married to Niamh. For the photo he used a Nikon D4s camera set at ISO 500, focal length 180mm, aperture f/4 at 1/2000th shutter speed.

The PPAI judges also appreciated the work of the 29-year-old son of Lorraine and Danny.

“When you are up against the best to win is extra special. I have been at the awards for plenty of years and not won so I have seen both sides of the coin. It is nice to be recognised by your colleagues and your peers. For me it is nice just for colleagues to say it was a great picture. It is good to get feedback because I might love a picture and nobody else does - it happens all the time or the opposite way. For people to confirm what I thought was a great photographer is nice,” said Diarmuid.

The freelance photographer who does a lot of work with Sportsfile and True Media has been nominated and had some photos exhibited at the PPAIs but this is his first win.

The Leader’s own Michael Cowhey was also honoured with a lifetime achievement award.