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Competitors: The Sports Experience (Book Review)

Competitors: The Sports Experience

Several months ago we picked up a copy of Competitors: The Sports Experience: Australian Sporting Photographs 1950s to 1980s by Daniel O’Keefe and Ann Atkinson. The grand price of $1 at a local op-shop reveals how photographers interested in older work can slowly pull together a small photography library given a small budget and some boot leather.

Competitors: The Sports Experience contains an impressive body of Australian sports photojournalism from another time. I’d argue, a better time. A time when sports photojournalists seemed to be allowed into the thick of the game, race or melee. Rather than consigned to approved areas of the ground and restricted from behind-the-scenes photo-opportunities. And that level of access to the players and the heart of the game paid dividends in their work.

There are pictures of Paramatta’s Ray Price storming through opposition; Dennis Lillee’s 1981 kicking incident with Pakistan’s captain at the WACA (he got a $200 fine); Collingwood’s Bill Picken walking the loser’s chase after a Grand Final loss (he played in four); Trevor Chappell’s 1981 “mullygrubber” as last ball of the day. The iconic scenes of Australian sport of that era. Football, cricket, sailing, bowls, weight lifting, the races. A young Darren Beadman on the ground after a fall. The thick of the fights on muddy pitches. Close in and raw.

It’s the rawness that I don’t really see in more recent sports photojournalism. I like these photographs for their close-in candid emotion. Photographs like the irate uniformed Victorian policeman shirt-fronting a fence jumper at a Geelong versus Collingwood match. For my mind, that’s what photographing sport is about. Not paparazzi. Not sports cars, after hours drug binges, hookers and players in handcuffs. This is a book about sport. The meat. Grind. And the mud. I think we’ve been a little distracted by the 24 hour news cycle into thinking that these people are elite sports socialites. This book is about peak moments in sport. Often decisive moments, to pull out Cartier-Bresson’s famous phrase.

If you’re a modern day sports photojournalist looking for inspiration on how you should be shooting at the best of your game; buy a copy of this hard cover book. Significantly larger in format than an A4 page and with good thick stock for pages, it won’t disappoint.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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