I have had a few conversations over the past eighteen months with some of the ‘heavyweights’ of the world sports photography fraternity about the need for a World Sports Photography Competition. Everyone has agreed, not one word of discouragement, but a general desire by everyone that we need to do something, anything!
The way I see it is we are the black sheep of the photo journalism community, looked down upon by other genres who often rudely dismiss us as ‘not worthy’ as I have experienced on more than one occasion when attending International Photography Contest presentations. World Press Photo seems to have a problem with us too, constantly changing our categories, one year there is twelve awards, the next six, the next nine. What to do with the problem child?
Yes we are different, we are unique in the sense that we have white line borders that prevent us from engaging with the subject from two feet away, we would love to be street photographers walking around with one body and a 35mm lens but we actually have to carry three bodies with a 500mm a 200mm and a wide angle (or similar) which weigh a ton. We are often penned in and point and shoot becomes inevitable in many cases.
Are we good? Sports photography to my minds is still in it’s infancy, for the most part our story telling is abysmal, many photographers don’t go beyond the point and shoot single image, the wires now sit photographers in the same spot for entire events and let them robotically record ‘the moment’ from that position and woe betide if you miss. Publications specializing in sports photography have become predictable and boring, relying on cliche images week after week to conform to a formula that insists it has to be inside the conforming style square, once you do this you stop photographers thinking outside the square which makes the product predicable and kills fresh eyes and new evolving direction. Look out for the overhead basketball image in the next two weeks! Odds are 2-1 on.
Until now, no competition has existed that recognizes the talents of sports photographers across a range of sports photography disciplines showing the varied skills of great action sports photography to features, portrait’s, portfolios, image sets, extreme sports, advertising, conceptual, even individual sports themselves could well have a place in a truly International Sports competition that has a world view, not a national view on sports photography.
A world sports photography competition could bring greater awareness to the dedicated photographers working in their field of expertise, bring greater recognition to the quality images produced of athletes of all levels and the spirit and place of sport in the society we live in. We could produce a ‘Hall of Fame’ giving legendary photographers the recognition they deserve as they pushed boundary’s to create a new level of quality sports photography. We could also aid young up and coming photographers with workshops, lectures, mentoring and grants for personal sports projects which exists in all other areas of photo journalism. We could also promote the advancement of sports photography supporting a high ethical standard pre and post production while encouraging documentary sports photography to help take the quality of work we do to a higher level and more importantly, give our genre of photo journalism respect.
The result would be an incredible image collection year on year that can be viewed as a collection to educate through books, exhibitions and online presentations. We need to move forward. Despite all the problems that exist in the industry there has never been a better time for young bright passionate photographers to become sports photographers, the average age of the photographers at the London Olympics was probably close to mid 50’s, we have stopped fighting and now have to wake each other up at the finish line as runners approach. How times have changed. Fresh talented minds are needed now. A positive direction is needed now.
Anyone with a passion for sports photography and a spare million please apply within.