Superb anthology of sports photographs, coupled with an illuminating text exploring the making of images both iconic and unknown.
Of the iconic imagery, most readers of a certain age can conjure in their minds a facsimile of, say, Olympic athletes raising clenched fists on the podium, Muhammad Ali smacking Joe Frazier, or American women’s soccer player Brandi Chastain raising her jersey to celebrate her team’s World Cup victory. “The missing link…is the photographer,” writes photo curator Buckland (History of Photography/Cooper Union; Who Shot Rock & Roll, 2009, etc.), who remedies that by including biographical and critical sketches of the photographers behind the lens at those climactic moments. Some of her choices are comparatively unknown, however, such as a wonderful image of two young players, shrouded in dust, sliding into home plate in the 2006 College World Series. If carved into marble, it might have been a study for the Laocoön Group, but as it is, Damian Strohmeyer’s photograph is a perfect capture of bodies in motion, shot “high enough to show the gradations of color, textures, and markings on the field, but close enough for the viewer to feel part of the action.” That photograph is followed by one just as impressive, this one taken by “the only official Austrian photographer at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” Lothar Rübelt, who preceded that accomplishment with a stunning image of Jewish runners crossing a finish line in a 1921 contest. There’s also a great shot of a young Cassius Clay emerging from the ocean like Poseidon, caught by Flip Schulke, a Sports Illustrated photographer who never caught on that Clay/Ali couldn’t swim. This is a collection of superlatives, with both subjects and artists in the finest of forms; it’s difficult to single out highlights, therefore, but one surely is David Burnett’s diving photographs, some taken with an old Speed Graphic camera “like the press photographers of yore used.”
Essential for all students of sports history and of photography and a fine gift for buffs as well.