There’s a lot of controversy about who’s the author of ”A picture is worth a thousand words” quote, but I guess we can all agree that the person who said that was so right.
Still, Monique Limbos’ pictures are worth more than just a thousand words, because they manage to convey all the happiness and all the drama that happens during a snooker match. They capture the true essence of what’s going on the green baize, the thrill, the sadness, the grimace, the joy, the “tear in the eye”, the triumphant look, the losing look, the competitive animal inside the player.
Many of us had the chance to actually feel like we were there, inside the arena, taking part of the snooker show, as we clicked on her pictures. Many of us felt like we were inside the press conference room at the Crucible as we were listening to her uploaded files on Sound Cloud. Many of us are using her pictures to write out articles, to share our thoughts about a simple match or an entire tournament.
We’ve got used to see Monique almost hiding behind that huge and heavy camera of hers; maybe even have taken for granted her contribution to this beloved cue sport, never asking who’s really behind that camera and what her story is.
Today, you have the chance to know the person Monique Limbos as I try to “photograph” her in this article. The close-up reveals her early passion for photography, her very interesting encounter with snooker, her journey through a “world ruled by men” and her incredible devotion not just to photography, but also to people.
When photography meets snooker
Photography was a very early discovery for Monique, but it soon evolved into something that has changed her life. As for her encounter with the cue sport that we all love and cherish, it happened back in 2004 when snooker came knocking at her door during a rainy day in Greece. The rest is history.
Monique recalls how it all started …
“When I was 10, I had a very serious accident that limited my activities for several years, so my family offered me a Kodak Instamatic 100. That was in the spring of 1965. I fell in love with photography there and then.”
“Later, in high school, I had a teacher who was passionate about photography and organised free workshops, on his own initiative. That's how I learned the basics about how a camera works and how to “construct” an interesting image.”
“More recently, when my children became grown-ups and I had more time for myself, I followed proper training during the weekends and started to work in the lab and in the darkroom as well.”
“I now have my own darkroom and still love to work with black & white films that I can process myself from beginning to end.”
“About three years ago, certain circumstances in life made me take a important decision. I retired from my job as an IT Expert, working for an International Organisation, in order to become a snooker photographer full time.”
Although for many years, photography remained just a hobby and not the major path in her life, something changed when snooker became part of the equation.
And for Monique it was all about equations as her academic background is actually one where numbers, perimeters and angles mix perfectly.
“My main training in university was maths and especially geometry. I'm just in love with it, angles, physics of the balls, the lot.”
“It's not just snooker, it's all forms of billiard games. Three-cushion billiards fascinates me, always has. That's what was played in the “cafés” when I was a kid.
“I discovered snooker later, around 2004. I was in Athens and the weather was just awful. I'm not a television addict, but I was really bored and switched it on. The Welsh Open was under way. I got hooked.”
However, it was not until 2007 when photography and snooker actually met and became a team. Being a snooker fan for some time now, Monique embraced the possibility of watching the “snooker show” live, so she travelled from Belgium to Poland to see the masters of the green baize in action.
“My first event was in Warsaw, were John Higgins, Mark Selby, Graeme Dott, Steve Davis and four Polish amateurs were playing in what proved to be the “prototype” of the World Series.”, Monique remembers fondly
“I brought my camera, snapped around, loved the experience and loved the result.”
“A few months later I asked Matchroom Sport if it was OK for me to come and take pictures at the Premier League. It was in Grimsby and Ronnie was playing. I was already a moderator on his website.”
“They accepted and their official photographer briefed me very kindly, about what to do and not to do, and how to move around in a professional snooker event. I will never be able to thank them enough for giving me the opportunity.”
A Rocket fan
One of the things I really admire in a person is their ability to know when to hit the switch button from being subjective to being objective. And being a snooker fan, with being a fan of a certain player often get mixed, the result not being a very pretty one.
With Monique that’s not the case, for although she’s the moderator of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s official website, you won’t detect any rude or out of place comments made from her by addressing one of the “Rocket’s” opponents. She’s above all a snooker fan, so she acknowledges the tremendous work the players do, their talent and passion.
A few months after becoming a member of O’Sullivan’s website she was asked if she could offer assistance.
Since then she’s been doing a terrific job taking care of the place were Ronnie’s fans and sometimes enemies meet, although not everyone understands the common sense concept.
“Sometimes it's difficult to find the right balance between allowing people to express their views and make sure that due respect is given to Ronnie's opponents.”
“It's a player's official site, but it's also a fan site. Understandably some of them are a bit biased.
“And then Ronnie has his haters, as well as his lovers. There is no need to be a member to comment on the main page of the site. After defeats or ... well, some controversy ... I've sometimes spend long nights moderating or deleting inappropriate posts.”, says Monique.
On the road
It’s not a secret that snooker likes travelling, especially if we take a good look at the recently ended season. And with snooker travel players, referees and photographers.
More than one player has expressed their concerns about having a too packed season with so many tournaments being staged all around the world.
But for Monique travelling is fun and is something she has in her blood. The snooker caravan is her favourite transport vehicle and she’s preparing to actually travel outside the continent this season.
“I'm a traveller", says Monique with a smile on her face.
“I'm always ready to prepare my bags – it doesn't take me long – and be on the road. So I've no problem with it. My only regret is that last season was so busy that I couldn't take the time to visit the places where we stayed properly. I like to combine some “tourism” with my snooker whenever possible.”
“I will be in Shanghai next September. I'm really looking forward to it.”
For those not fortunate enough to go at the Crucible this year, but follow Monique on FaceBook, you could see that during this year’s World Championship Mark Jones (snooker player Hannah Jones’ father) took some pretty interesting pictures of Monique and her sophisticated equipment.
Makes you wonder how she manages to carry that heavy camera from country to country, from venue to venue and work in an environment that’s mostly dominated by men.
But for Monique, there’s something she’s done all her life, and to quote one of Frank Sinatra songs “and may I say, not in shy way”, her only concern being to do her job properly.
Monique confesses that: “I've always been in professions dominated by men. IT is even worse than sport photography in that respect actually.”
“But I never had any problem with anyone as a photographer.”
“Indeed, equipment is seriously heavy. I'm probably stronger than I look and there is always at least one gallant man in each train.” she happily concludes.
“Developing” the photographer
To conclude this article, I’ve chosen to develop the latest four clichés of this beautiful film that Monique was so kind to share with us, by using some questions. Let’s see what she got to say about her most memorable snooker moments and about how she likes to spend her, often very little, free time.
1. Until now, what was your favourite snooker event?
“That's a hard one! I love taking pictures in the Premier League. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, and it was my first real experience of pro snooker as a photographer, and a very good one.”
“But the World Championship is special. The tension is just incredible for 17 days, it's running high on emotions from start to finish. And I love Sheffield.”
2. What was your most wonderful v. most terrible experience as a snooker photographer?
“Not so much as a photographer, but as a media person, the most terrible experience was to be there, in the media room, when the Higgins-NOTW scandal came out.”
“The last semi-final was still under way and we were asked to keep it quiet. But everyone was in shock.”
“People like Steve Davis, Janie Watkins and Clive Everton were profoundly saddened and worried for the future of the sport. How not to be when snooker is relying so much on betting companies for its sponsoring and its integrity is so seriously challenged?”
“Also, a lot of us were concerned about Graeme Dott's reaction. He was still playing, knowing nothing of the scandal involving his management.”
“I can't really choose the most wonderful one. There were many. Being alone in the spare commentary box and taking pictures when Steve Davis beat John Higgins at the WC in 2010, the tension was almost unbearable, everyone in the Crucible was living it with Steve. “
“Being on the floor when the players were introduced for the last session of the 2011 World Championship final. The atmosphere was just incredible.”
“Ronnie's happiness and emotion when cradling his son and the trophy after this years’ final and the little boy ecstatic look at his father when the “confetti” were falling on them. And more ...”
3. Have you ever tried to play snooker?
“Yes. I'm crap! Still love it. My highest break is 25 ... still don't know how I managed it.”
4. What do you like to do in your free time?
“I love to cook, when I have time to do it properly.”
“I love to walk, randomly, in towns, on markets, in the woods, in harbours, along rivers, and take “candids”.
”I used to read a lot, still do, mainly “whodunits”.
“I'm also interested in history and archaeology. I love puzzles of all sorts, but mainly mathematical puzzles.”