Many of my books have begun as projects, visual investigations into things that interest me. My 14th book, ATHLETE, resulted from a four year project that immersed me deeply into the many worlds – and myriad skills and body types – of sports.
I read about and searched images for every sport and studied video tapes, searching, frame by frame, for the “moment” that could make a great photograph. I also interviewed each athlete before making a picture, trying to pin down the secrets to their accomplishments. What did their passion and spirit look like? How did they become who they were? And how could I show that visually?
The making of the book was a rich and tremendously educational process, a fulfilling experience learning about the athletes and how they do what they do to rise to the top in professional sports.
For instance, when studying the discus throw, one of the most ancient track and field events, with the great Olympian Adam Setliff, I found that there were many single images that showed energy, power and beauty. And so I developed the idea of bringing all these together using stroboscopic flash in one exposure. I had him hold a light that showed the path the discus traveled before he let it go. I then substituted his right hand, which held the discus, with the one holding the light. This literal, visual “slight of hand” illustrated how a great discus thrower builds the energy to accomplish a winning distance.
Having spent countless hours studying the way so many competitors use their bodies, I learned to recognize the differences that defined what they did.
Here are the legs of a great athlete. Can you figure out the sport?
The answer is below; perhaps first see if a careful study of this image yields the answer.
The essential clues are the hugely developed quadriceps muscles and the well-defined suntan line half-way down his thighs. The first tells you that the sport requires tremendous effort of the legs; the second, that it is a sport done outside and that his pants are tight-fitting (i.e. not loose like the more diffuse suntan that soccer pants might produce).
Have you figured it out?
These are the legs of the great velodrome cyclist, Marty Nothstein. The only other sport that would produce these “quads” would be body-building and those “athletes” wear very short competition briefs (as Marty is wearing for this photograph) and would not have the tan line.