Admiration. Hardship. Redemption. These are just a few of the emotions on display at “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present.”
“Photographers are the ones who have the real stories,” said curator Gail Buckland at a recent press preview for the exhibition, now showing at the Brooklyn Museum. “Many sports photographers led in innovation. They’re as dedicated to the craft as the athletes.” Buckland, a guest curator, is back at the Brooklyn Museum after previously developing “Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present” in 2009.
Beyond its examination and appreciation of athleticism, the exhibition looks into the evolution of techniques used by more than 170 photographers whose works make up the 230 images on display.
From the first-ever sports photography, developed on salt print paper in the mid-19th century, to digital displays on monitors, the exhibition is a reflection of the evolutionary way sports are recorded, and of sport itself. As well as traditional sports like swimming, gymnastics and soccer, visitors will come across base jumping, freestyle motocross — even Quidditch, with scenes of the sport that emerged from the fictional world of “Harry Potter” captured through the lens of photographer Will Michels.
Athletes aren’t the only stars on display, either. Galleries also put the spotlight on sports fans, as well as the many facets that make up the spectacle that is the Olympic Games.
Indigenous sports, seen in images such as George Rodger’s “The Wrestlers, Kordofan, Sudan,” taken in 1949, show the way in which sport preserves ancient traditions. Cultural, social and political themes are examined throughout the exhibit too, reflecting how sports photography documents moments much deeper than what first meets the eye.