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Bob Martin (British, born 1959). Avi Torres of Spain sets off at the start of the 200m freestyle heats, Paralympic Games, Athens, September 1, 2004, printed 2016. Inkjet print, 14 x 9½ in. (35.6 x 24.1 cm). Courtesy of Bob Martin/Sports Illustrated
Bob Martin (British, born 1959). Avi Torres of Spain sets off at the start of the 200m freestyle heats, Paralympic Games, Athens, September 1, 2004, printed 2016. Inkjet print, 14 x 9½ in. (35.6 x 24.1 cm). Courtesy of Bob Martin/Sports Illustrated

A vibrant portrait, taken by Lucy Nicholson, of an elderly lady with a bleach blonde beehive and over-defined eyebrows playing ping pong is hard to miss.

On reading the caption, we discover that this particular sportswoman belongs to the Alzheimer’s Ping Pong Therapy club in LA.

A pub scene in the middle of an American football game captures an emotional moment of celebration in Touchdown Kiss by Deanne Fitzmaurice.

Lucy Nicholson (American/British, born England). Alzheimer’s Ping Pong Therapy, Los Angeles, CA, 2011, printed 2016. Inkjet print, 10 5/8 x 16 3/8 in. (26.9 x 41.5 cm). Courtesy of Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Lucy Nicholson (American/British, born England). Alzheimer’s Ping Pong Therapy, Los Angeles, CA, 2011, printed 2016. Inkjet print, 10 5/8 x 16 3/8 in. (26.9 x 41.5 cm). Courtesy of Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Deanne Fitzmaurice (American, born 1957). Touchdown Kiss, 2013. Color photograph, 9½ x 14½ in. (24.1 x 36.8 cm). Collection of Deanne Fitzmaurice
Deanne Fitzmaurice (American, born 1957). Touchdown Kiss, 2013. Color photograph, 9½ x 14½ in. (24.1 x 36.8 cm). Collection of Deanne Fitzmaurice

“The pictures are much more than winning goals; they really tell us something about the human condition and about what the body can achieve.” says Buckland. “Sport is very much about being in the moment, whether you‘re a player, a spectator or a photographer.”

“I try to make the show as inclusive as possible. As many different sports, different ages and different periods to show the breadth of it, not just the great moments in sports.”

We are also invited to ponder the role sports photography played in the technical advancement of the camera.

This is not only highlighted by the obvious change in the resolution of each image as we inspect the collection, but is also supported through the inclusion of a technical timeline constructed by world expert Nigel Russell.

Mark Fisher (American, born 1976). Sage Cattabriga Alosa, Alaska, Extreme-Skiing, 2010. Digital print, 40 x 28 in. 101.6 x 71.1 cm). Courtesy of the artist
Mark Fisher (American, born 1976). Sage Cattabriga Alosa, Alaska, Extreme-Skiing, 2010. Digital print, 40 x 28 in. 101.6 x 71.1 cm). Courtesy of the artist
Tim Clayton (British, born 1960). Australian Swimmer Matthew Dunn, 1993, printed 2016. Inkjet print, 8½ x 14 in. (21.7 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist
Tim Clayton (British, born 1960). Australian Swimmer Matthew Dunn, 1993, printed 2016. Inkjet print, 8½ x 14 in. (21.7 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist

We see the stunning contrast between the contemporary hi-res and the first sports photograph known to exist, of a young tennis player, posing, for what could have been over two minutes given the very long exposure times of the first cameras in the mid 19th century.

“Sports photographers pushed sports photography maybe more than any group I know of because they had to stop the action,” says Buckland. “They needed longer lenses and faster cameras. They needed the fastest shutters to stop a horse running.”

In January last year, all remaining sports photographers from Sports Illustrated, one of the most highly regarded sports magazines in the United States, were dismissed and replaced with online image banks.

Let this exhibition be a reminder of the undeniable contribution of sports photographers to the lasting value of a photograph, and the athleticism of instinctive skill, on and off the court.

Georges Demeny (French, 1850–1917). Chronophotograph of an exercise on the horizontal bar, 1906. Black-and-white photograph. © INSEP Iconothèque
Georges Demeny (French, 1850–1917). Chronophotograph of an exercise on the horizontal bar, 1906. Black-and-white photograph. © INSEP Iconothèque
Erich Andres (German, 1905–1992). Spectators, Berlin Olympics, 1936. Black and white photograph, 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (16.5 x 23.5cm). The International Olympic Committee
Erich Andres (German, 1905–1992). Spectators, Berlin Olympics, 1936. Black and white photograph, 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (16.5 x 23.5cm). The International Olympic Committee
Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the Managing Editor of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her words have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Prior to this, she completed a MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, London, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.

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