Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are sports photos inspiring?

If you don't look at The Big Picture, you should. I depend on it to deliver a nearly daily dose of stunning photography.

For example, Monday's collection of photos from the Dakar Rally, which was held in South America this year due to terrorist concerns in Africa.

No need for words, the pictures say it all. No need for words, so I normally skip the comments that flood the bottom of the posts. Most of them are just "Wow, amazing pictures;" or "Great shots." Duh.

Except one comment caught my eye on Monday's post.
I like it better when the Big Picture isn't about sports. Ski Jumping, airplanes, and dudes racing in the desert are not too inspirational. Perhaps if it was a renewable energy race it would be more interesting.
I was just going to leave an impassioned comment in reply on the blog, but decided to bring it over here, where all of you could participate.

The comment strikes me for two reasons.

One, I disagree with its assertion that recent Big Picture posts about ski jumping, airplanes and dudes racing in the desert were not inspirational. It's just not true.

Competitors in the three sports push the limits, overcome intense adversity and flirt with the perfect between nature's control and the human will. Men weren't meant to fly, so we strapped boards to our feet, slid down a slope off a cliff and took flight. That wasn't good enough so we invented airplanes and became so good at building and flying them that we can now race them, side by side, around cones.

Not inspirational? These three sports demonstrate things I could only dream of doing. Would it be that much cooler if the VW above ran on veggie oil?

Two, the comment asks the question: Are sports photos inspiring? The commenter obviously doesn't like sports. Maybe the commenter likes Al Gore more. Don't get me wrong, Al Gore is great, but the opportunity for inspiration with Al Gore is only so long.

Sports, and the photos that document them, give us infinite opportunities to be inspired. I've often said the best stories happen every fall Friday night on high school football fields across America. Not because the games are thrilling with last second wins, but because the games are drenched in emotion.

Sure, as a photographer, it is important to capture the last second win or the big catch. The few times I shot sports in Barstow, I made sure I had a few of those stashed away by the end of the game. Beyond that, I focused on capturing the emotion. The coaches hands on his head in dismay. The basketball player's face as he slices through two defenders on his way to the basket. The wrestler trying to stave off a pin. Fans miss these expressions. They are flashes, flashes of truth. Michael Jordan's tongue is iconic, but the determination on his face before he shoots a free-throw is telling.

So are sports photos inspiring? Yes. That's my opinion. What do yall think?


Anonymous said...

Yeah...they can be. I can see where some might think that GENERALLY they aren't as inspiring though. It tells a different story and appeals to a different audience. The audience that visits The Big Picture wouldn't be significantly composed of sports enthusiasts, so I can see where a comment would prevail on such a site.

A to the Leestma

Aaron said... comes through with a sports blog.

Big Shots is a collection of the best sports photography. nice.

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