‘To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition,
in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event
as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that
event its proper expression’.
Henri Cartier-Breeson – The Decisive Moment (1952)
They say that a photograph is a witness, but a witness of something that is no more. It’s a moment of this subject’s existence that was photographed, and this moment is now gone. Each viewing of a photo - and there are billions worldwide in a day - each perception and reading of a photo is implicitly a contract with what has ceased to exist.
For an athlete there is no defining moment in their life than the Olympic Games. For four or more years, the Games consumes their life, and the scenario of body and mind competing in the Games is monotonously but importantly played over and over again. A forecast of moments in which they will anticipate, react to, and live when the set day of competition arrives. The same moments that I must try to anticipate, react to, and live when they are presented to me.
And photographs are part of a mental process, the result of an interaction between photographs and viewing subjects. Images are products of what is perceived and thought, both consciously and unconsciously, but looped in a spiral of relationships which are continuous - a continuum. So time, in this loop, does not rely on the movement of a clock but is instead located in the physical space, thus resulting in the moment depicted in the photograph.
A photograph 'fixes the moment' of an event. In that moment, the photograph preserves what the eye might otherwise not capture. The idea that a photo can capture a moment in time happens to be a specific statement born out of, and sustained by our conceptions of what is to be being represented.
The question asked here is not what the difference is between the real moment and the photograph but to what degree, if any, the photograph can blur or eliminate the between of what was seen and what is now being depicted in the photograph. Clearly what is of interest to an observer of a photograph is the way in which the observer can see that moment torn from a continuum, and not as a manipulation of time.
As a sports photographer, my work will constantly revolve around each one of these set moments. There will be many. But unlike the athlete, I will have little control over the biology of that moment. And so vision and reflex becomes my key focus.
And the moment of the photograph can never be repeated, which is at the heart of the nostalgia which is felt for the events or people depicted.
So herein lays the essence of why I chose to be a sports photographer. My world is about moments - quick fleeting moments that are otherwise missed - but brought into existence by the physical photograph. And the moments are many, the moments are quick, and the moments all exist with different biologies to each other. The biology is determined by the vision and portrayal that the photographer judges as being part of its outer skin. The sports photographer puts a little of his own self into his grand vision, and ultimately the exhibition of that captured moment.
The images chosen for the exhibition are just that, images that have part of my DNA imbedded, consciously or unconsciously, into the physical. I am not an athlete. I haven’t felt first hand how and what the athlete feels when competing at such an elite level. The DNA that I place in my images is how and why I see things through my personality. And that personality, is humour, is darkness, is form, and will be shaped by how I feel that day, how fatigued I am, my hunger, my hours of sleep, my life experiences, my friends, my yearning to be at home and its comforts, or how my work has progressed through the 14 days of competition.
For I know I am blessed. For I witness and record a special time in these athletes lives. A time which impacts and shapes their present and future. Time that swings from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Or time that swings from one end of the physical spectrum to the other.
And as soon as there is a spectator for the photograph, the photograph and moment exists.