As I’ve said before I simply love to photograph things in motion and the emotion that comes from it. That has led me to as I like to say “shoot any sport but not really with anything longer than an 85mm lens” mostly because I want to take a personal approach to my subjects whenever possible. You just can’t be personal when using a 400mm lens. You get out of a persons comfortable “conversational distance” when you get beyond about 4 feet away. Try this: while having a serious conversation with someone notice that you are most likely within 4 or so feet away from the person. Now while continuing to chat slowly start stepping backwards and notice how it feels to be speaking from 5, 6, 8 or then 10 feet away. It feels like there is this emotional gap between you and the other person that is similar in size to the distance you physically are from each other. Funky huh? So when trying to show any kind of intimacy with the subject you have to often be in that conversational space. Thus the 85mm lens comment. Got it?
As in my work such as the documentaries on the wrestling team and the culture of the roller derby team I want the images to make the viewer feel like they are right next to the subject of my stories and that is because I am physically right there when I take the photos. But there are some special aspects of physical activities that aren’t about motion but the ripple effect it produces on the body and the emotions. It’s in the eyes and written on the face and body.
When I went to cover the Tough Mudder event that was happening in the mountains surrounding Beaver Creek, Colorado I had an idea. Ya see the Tough Mudder is kinda brutal. It’s a 9 mile course that is based on a British special forces training exercise whereby each participant simply needs to finish. In it you run from obstacle to gnarly obstacle and basically get beat to a pulp. Greased monkey bars anyone? Well I knew that it was going to be visually interesting but besides the photos of tired runners climbing walls and running through mud fields to hop over hay bales while being blasted with fire hoses, I knew that the most telling images would to me be at the end. Not them struggling to cross the finish line but what they looked like at the end of it all: exhausted, elated and filthy.
Therefore I set up the most basic of studios: white seamless paper on a north facing wall near the finish line and went to find interesting faces. To keep everything simple I shot all the portraits with my AF-D 50mm f/1.4 set to f/2.8. That was it. I got everything out of the way to quickly get a few frames of the dirty and often still gasping Mudders. Did I mention that the event took place at an elevation of over 8,000 feet?
This is going to be the beginning of a series that I plan on doing where I shoot portraits of the finishers of endurance races and other physically punishing events. I’ve done some research and hope to get long distance runners, cyclists and the like. No professionals, just (ab?)normal people who enjoy getting kicked in the shorts.