Blog #173 9/1/16
Over the last 20 years, I have had the thrilling and fulfilling opportunity to work with and make unique imagery of hundreds of champion athletes, both professional and amateur.
As human beings they are distinctly different from one another, each interesting in his or her own way, with a wide spectrum of intellect, social sophistication and grace, personal taste, and goals.
In the course of photographing champion athletes, I discovered that what they do have in common is the ability to focus, fully and fiercely, on what they’re doing. They also share a willingness to work incredibly hard, often at the cost of great self sacrifice, with an insatiable need to succeed. Of course, whatever their sport, they have both general and specific physical gifts.
It is their physicality and discipline (and thus total teamwork cooperation) that makes them marvelous photographic subjects.
Kallie Humpries, Olympic and world champion bobsledder.
My general approach for a photography session is to gently and respectfully interview each athlete. I am interested in them personally as well as in their sport, its spirit, nuances and challenges. I try to approach each athlete almost as a coach might do, with a challenge of sorts: I tell them that together we can easily make good photographs, but that “good” is far from good enough, no more worthy as a goal than a “good race” or a “good game. I explain that their friends and coaches might look at the image and say something like, “nice,” not an laudable goal for subject or photographer. I explain that in order to make championship level photographs, we, together, need to commit ourselves to really hard work. And, just like winning a race by 0.001 seconds, we will need luck along with the supreme effort to successfully make wonderful photographs.
I could write an interesting blog on almost every athlete that has come to my studio. A prime example of the excellence I encountered is Canadian Kaillie Humphries, the reigning Olympic champion in the two-woman bobsled at the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Olympics. ESPN magazine asked me to do pictures of her, and I found her an ideal subject.
This is the image ESPN Magazine published.’
With her victory in 2014, Humphries became the first female bobsledder to successfully defend her Olympic title. Due to her repeat championship she was named flag bearer for the closing ceremonies at the 2014 Games together with her brake woman Heather Moyse. Humphries is also the two-time defending overall World Cup champion.
Athletes’ bodies usually reflect the conditioning of their particular sports, and Humphries was a perfect example of this. Bobsled runs begin from a standing start, and a tremendous burst of energy and muscular power; a good start is a fast start, and a fast start depends on the strength of a bobsledder’s legs Race times are recorded in hundredths of seconds, so even seemingly minor errors – especially those at the start that affect the remainder of the heat – can have a measurable impact on the final race standings.
Kallie’s lower body, especially her fantastic legs, created the power and speed to help her push the sled and run it fast before boarding.The rest was piloting skill and courage.
To illustrate the power in her legs we made photographs using the small studio gym I’ve written about previously ( Blog #166 “My Mini Gym For Maximum Effect” reference: http://bit.ly/minigymblog )
Directing and photographing Kallie Humphries who physically strains to bring energy and tension to the image.
Her determined hard work for the camera – and the startling tattoos – did the trick.
Even her profile was “sculpted.”
Glitterati Incorporated, the publisher of the Retrospective, Schatz Images: 25 Years is now offering the two- book boxed set at a discount from the original price. The set comes with an 11″x14” print of the buyer’s choice.