Imagine, for a moment, that you just witnessed one of the greatest moments in sports history, the kind of thing that you could tell right away will be remembered forever; Ray Allen’s three-pointer in Game 6, Kirk Gibson’s home run in the World Series, LeBron James Game 7 block, Dwight Clark’s catch, etc. There’s a mental image that becomes associated with that moment, something that you really can only see.
For legendary photographer Andy Bernstein, all of these moments are viewed through a camera lens. He sees them, sure, but he doesn’t get a chance to take them in until later on when he’s going through the film. That’s the life of a photographer, one in which the objective is to capture what is taking place.
“When you push the button, the shutter opens and closes in that instant, that millisecond it is recording that moment in time.” Bernstein told Dime. “If I’m seeing that moment in time through the viewfinder, through the lens, or even God forbid just taking my eye off of the camera, and then I missed it. It will never happen again and that moment is gone. I can’t recreate it. I can’t ask him to do it again.”
Bernstein is an action photographer. The moments he captures are quick and can be over in an instant. It’s what makes so much of his work so impressive. Go through a database of photos of the average NBA game, you’ll get a shot here and there of someone dunking, but the majority are still frame moments from a break in the action.
He loves capturing dunks and the jubilation someone feels immediately after winning a title. His most iconic moment? There’s plenty, but one moment probably stands above it all.
“Kirk Gibson hits the home run in 88.” Bernstein says. “Something that told me before that ninth inning, ‘You know what? You better just get your wide angle lens and clash together and another camera to put it next to, because you know something could happen in the bottom of the ninth, it’s a World Series game. I was the first one at home plate that got there when Kirk touched home plate. I got there before the rest of the team, and that’s my picture of him high fiving Orel Hershiser at home plate that was on the cover of … I think it was the Sporting News or something that week.”
Not only did Bernstein capture what ended up being an iconic moment, but there was a personal connection to Gibson’s homer. Growing up in New York, Bernstein’s family of Dodgers fans felt betrayed when the team left Brooklyn for Los Angeles. It wasn’t until Bernstein took a job with the team as their photographer that his family flipped back to loving the franchise — his Dad told him the happiest moment of his life was when he got hired to be the Dodgers team photographer.