Photography in the Sports Media 9/24/13


Photographs have big-picture meanings. No pun intended. This is especially true in the realm of sports photography. Sporting events allow photographers to catch moments of triumph, defeat, emotion and amazing physical feats. Viewers are able to see and connect with a moment of glory or shame through a still-picture. Still-photography, in a way, allows an observer to relive the history and emotion of the event.

The pictures that photojournalists take in the sports media do come with connotations. Typically, when men are photographed during a sporting event, the picture is of an action-filled scene filled with athletic intensity. When women are the subjects of the photographs, there are less action shots. That makes men look active and rugged while women look dependent and passive.

The best example of the sexism in sports photography is the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Instead of admiring women’s sports, SI sells one issue a year admiring women in sexy bathing suits. Adult males, the most common demographic of SI, consistently love the annual issue. That is the reason they make the issue. They make a lot of money from it.

The author also compares sports photojournalism to hardcore pornographic photography. In porn, the photographer is looking to capture the “money” or “cum” shot. That’s the most intense scene where the picture means most to the consumer. The same goes for sports photographers. They are looking for the money shot that captures the most intense moment of the sporting event.

Over the past few decades, male athletes have become the ultimate example of masculinity. This has had a direct impact on the importance of photography. Pictures now focus on the biceps of Clay Matthews, the 6’8 frame of LeBron James and the vertical of Nate Robinson.

Photographers used to focus on the analytical part of sports.

  1. How did the Green Bay offense line up at the goal line.
  2. Who threw the pick in the pick and roll?
  3. What was the grip the pitcher used to throw that pitch?

I also think that the culture change behind the photographic change mentioned earlier has had an impact in the popularity of each sport.

  1. Football- Extreme athleticism— Popularity up
  2. Basketball- Extreme athleticism—- Popularity up
  3. Baseball- Not sexy— Popularity down

To sum up this article, the author talks about two categories of sports photography

  1. Action photography- masculinity (athleticism)
  2. Aesthetic photography

However, action photography will remain the predominant form of sports photography used in the mainstream media.


Discussion Questions:

1. How does sports photography change photography in general?

2. Are we becoming more desensitized due to more images?

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