Masters of sports photography
A new exhibition focuses not just on the athletes and their amazing feats of skill, but on the talented photographers who capture those athletes in motion in defining moments with true artistry. "Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present," at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, features approximately 230 images from around the world by more than 170 photographers. The exhibition celebrates the photographers behind many of the most memorable images we have seen in, what the museum calls, the most thorough sports photography exhibition ever. The show runs through January 8, 2017.
Gail Buckland, the exhibit curator, calls still photographers "masters of moments" and states, "It is the photographers who give sports its indelible images." These artists capture the full range of human emotions on display, everything from courage to endurance, to pain and jubilation.
Avi Torres of Spain sets off at the start of the 200m freestyle heats, Paralympic Games, Athens, Sept. 1, 2004 - photographed by Bob Martin for Sports Illustrated.
Men's beach volleyball
Many of the photographers whose work is featured in the exhibition are more known in the fine art and fashion worlds such as Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
It's not surprising that photographer Donald Miralle studied art before working as a sports photographer for Allsport and Getty Images considering the painterly quality to this image. He summarizes his philosophy as "Frame the scene. Start composing like a painting rather than chasing things and just capturing the action."
Men's beach volleyball match between Brazil and Canada, London Olympics, The Horse Guards Parade ground, 2012.
Photo by Donald Miralle
The show is divided into themes that include the beginnings of sports photography, the decisive moment, fans and followers, portraits (those on classic baseball cards as well), behind the scenes and the Olympics. Viewers will delight in seeing familiar iconic images besides less well known ones.
Pop culture artist Andy Warhol was asked by collector Richard Weisman to do a series of work on sports stars in 1977, including one of the legendary Brazilian soccer star Pelé. Warhol produced the series with his polaroid camera. The polaroids were later converted into silkscreens with "Wharholian brushstrokes, colors and panache."
Dean Panaros, platform diving, Olympic previews, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 1996.
David Burnett was a war photographer in Vietnam and regularly covered the White House. He is also an accomplished Olympic sports photographer, having covered more than 10 of them. Burnett's camera bag has included a plastic Holga and an old-time Speed Graphic, always looking for a unique way of seeing.
Burnett: "I always remind people that every four years it's the photographers' Olympics, too. You have the best photographers in the world, all in one place, shooting the same thing."
George Rodger was one of four founding members of the photography collective Magnum Photos. His work on the Nuba revealed much about the tribe and its culture. According to Rodger, each tribal group specialized in different sports competing ferociously.
The Wrestlers, Kordofan, Sudan, 1949. From "With the Nuba Hillmen of Kordofan," The National Geographic, February 1951
Fencer Laura Flessel
French épée fencer Laura Flessel, five-time Olympic medal winner, March 31, 2004
This photo is part of French photographer Gérard Rancinan's 2004 portrait series of Olympic athletes. The photographer has covered everything from natural disasters to war and fashion. He has regularly contributed to Sports Illustrated. His fine art work has been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. In 2014, his "The Feast of the Barbarians" became the most expensive photo sold by a living French photographer.
Black Power salute
American track and field athletes Tommie Smith (C) and John Carlos (R), first and third place winners in the 200 meter race, protest with the Black Power salute as they stand on the winner's podium at the Summer Olympic games, Mexico City, October 19, 1968.
John Dominis captured this iconic Olympic moment. He covered six Olympic Games in addition to photographing the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He worked Life magazine among other publications.
Extreme photographer Joerg Mitter photographed Levi Sherwood of New Zealand peforming in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square, June 24, 2010.
Mitter, who specializes in extreme sports, said that in that subspecialty the athletes have to trust the photographers. They're in challenging and dangerous situations altogether and there are no second chances.
Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts about to throw a pass during sudden death overtime in the NFL championship game against the New York Giants, Yankee Stadium, Dec. 28, 1958.
Unitas said of photographer Robert Riger, he "sees a football game as we see it. No one shows playmaking like this."
"The Golden Arm, Johnny Unitas, 1958"
One of the earliest photos in the exhibition is this one by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, who were one of the best of the early portraitists using the calotype (a paper negative for short exposures). Portraits ruled the day because the technology of the time didn't allow for the ability to capture fast movement.
Laing or Laine, tennis player, 1843
Track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Point Dume, 1987
Herb Ritts is best known for his fashion photography. He chose to focus on Joyner-Kersee's muscular legs and her form.
Brian Finke's work is characterized by a hyper-real quality produced with small Q flashes and saturated color. He shot his series on cheerleaders and another on football players between 2001 and 2003.
"Win or lose,' Finke says, his kids are "emotional."
Boxer Sergio Martinez was photographed by Howard Schatz for a book titled "At the Fights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing," which included six years of work. Schatz captured Martinez with multiple stroboscopic flashes in a studio showing an incredible amount of rhythmic movement.
Boxing Study 1805, Sergio Martinez, 2010.
Alzheimer’s Ping Pong Therapy
Reuters wire service photographer Lucy Nicholson enjoys working on photo essays. This photo is from a story on elderly people suffering from Alzheimers who use ping-pong to improve their balance among other things.
Alzheimer's Ping Pong Therapy, Los Angeles
Michael Tomchek leaps off Castleton Tower (400ft) as fellow BASE jumpers look on, Castle Valley, Utah, 2010
Photographer Krystle Wright is described in the book accompanying the exhibition as "one of the finest adventure photographers working today." She works in a specialty dominated by men. Sometimes she preconceives a photo and takes years preparing for it and other times it's a question of capturing something unexpectedly.
"Freefall" - photographed by Krystle Wright
Boxer Joe Luis was the great American hope against German Max Schmeling in the 1936 heavyweight championship fight. Lusha Nelson captured Luis in this beautiful black and white photo with it's soft lighting two years before Nelson's untimely death at age 31. In his brief career, his portraits included those of Luis, Jesse Owens and "Babe" Didrikson.
Joe Louis, Vanity Fair, October 1935
1896 Athens Olympics
This photo of the American Olympic Team at the 1896 Athens Olympics was possibly taken by Thomas Pelham Curtis during the first modern Olympics. There were all of 12 photographers at those Games. Curtis happened to actually be an athlete with a camera and won the 110-meter hurdles.
Australian Swimmer Matthew Dunn
The great sports photographer has a point of view--literally--that is honed from years of practice. Australian photographer Tim Clayton believes sports photography deserves equal respect with other types of photojournalism and always tries to look at things differently. Though we have come to see this kind of bubble photo frequently in recent years, Clayton believes he was the first to capture a swimming moment this way.
"Boy in the Bubble," Australian Swimmer Matthew Dunn, 1993
Nigerian Relay Team
Working for "The Dallas Morning News" at the time, Ken Geiger captured the sheer joy of winning and camaraderie on the sports field in this photo.
A book accompanies the exhibition with biographies of the photographers, for those not lucky enough to see these incredible photos in person. Curator Gail Buckland, who produced the show and book, produced a similar show for the Brooklyn Museum in 2009 focusing on music photographers, "Who Shot Rock&Roll?"
"Nigerian Relay Team," Olympics, Barcelona, 1992