michael j. le brecht’s road to sports illustrated

Ask any sports photographer about his dream job, and odds are he’ll name one publication: Sports Illustrated. Michael J. Le Brecht II is no different. The Brooklyn-born shooter can trace his dream to its exact origin, at age 10, in the nosebleed seats at stadiums and arenas around the New York area.

"In my high school yearbook, my photography teacher wrote: ‘When you become famous and shoot for Sports Illustrated, give me a call.’"

"I used to go the games with my brother, and he would bring a camera," he says. "We sat upstairs, and we would try to sneak down to get a closer shot of the athletes. I would notice the photographers sitting baseline, or around the field, and I'm like, Man, that's amazing. That's when I started to really develop a love of photography."

Photographer Michael J Le Brecht II uses the Moto Z™ Droid and Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod™ to snap the first-ever SI cover shot on a Smartphone.

Sports were the driving force behind Le Brecht’s passion, and he pursued photography from his high school darkroom, pouring chemicals and processing film, to commercial photography in college and finally a key internship at a television studio in New York City.

"I was exposed to the entire photography department, and all the handlings of it," says Le Brecht. "They had a photo studio on the ninth floor, and they would do the portraits for corporate head shots, portraits for the actors and the newscasters, all the talent. We also did location photography, so I got to go out and learn on the spot as an assistant about location photography and set photography."

Several summers of shooting soap opera stars and on-screen anchors gave Le Brecht incredible experience and skill, but he never lost sight of his true dream. "I got exposed to all those different elements, but in the back of my mind, I always wanted to shoot for Sports Illustrated," he recalls. "So much so, that in my high school yearbook, my photography teacher wrote: ‘When you become famous and shoot for Sports Illustrated, give me a call.’"

Le Brecht found out one of the higher-ups in the photo department at the TV studio also worked for SI, and that was all the info he needed. Le Brecht found every excuse to hang around the exec’s office, begging for stories about shooting covers for the magazine, until one day he found himself at a lunch with SI photographer Manny Millan. Millan offered to let the 20-year-old Le Brecht assist at a shoot—a prime-time basketball game at Madison Square Garden. That led to another gig at a game in New Jersey, then a high school game in Washington, D.C., and soon enough Le Brecht was traveling the country as a photo assistant, helping to set up lighting and haul equipment and put together photographs for his dream publication.

Twenty years later, Le Brecht is still living new dreams.