Archive: Dec 2010
The idea to make the film above was a natural progression from the photographs that I wrote about in a post called Three Chords & The Truth earlier this year. In summary, I suggested that to put up a white sheet, or paper backdrop, outside in diffused, flat daylight, preferably against a wall that faces away from the sun, and photograph people against that backdrop was the photographic equivalent of learning to play basic three chord rock & roll. The post was illustrated with a series of portraits I had made in that way of duathlon competitors immediately after crossing the finish line. What interested me, and still does, is the unadorned,raw, naked vulnerability of those people at that moment. They have trained well but are exhausted. On that day, of maybe 30 people that I asked to photograph, not a single one declined. I would take charge of them as they crossed the line and guide them to my camera and backdrop. They were, right there, as small children willing to be told what to do.
As I was photographing I realised that a 60 second filmed study of the same subject matter would have to come next. As soon as I got home I began to research where I might be able to find that kind of thing. It wasn’t difficult and sometime in June of this year Sarah, my assistant, and I met up at 5am one morning to get to the finish line of an Olympic standard triathlon on the edge of London, in time to set up and wait for the first ones to finish.
Having done it once in a still format and seen how the majority of the competitors were at the finish, I had learned that most of them were simply too well trained to give me the impression of being at death’s door, despite the make up of the Olympic level: 1.5Km swim, 42km bike & 10km run. Instead, I realised that what I needed to capture was a minute from each person of what I like to think of as ‘exposed honesty.’ In these few minutes after an endurance of this type, I found all of the people in this film to have a quiet and confident, yet vulnerable, plaintiveness to their countenance and it’s possible to convey that more powerfully in moving form than still. There simply is no way to show, in still form, someone shivering because their body is cooling down too rapidly after such a prolonged and heat generating endeavour.
As the camera moves in or out from each of their faces you find yourself adapting your breathing, in empathy, willing them to make it through this last and unexpected trial by camera, to hold it’s gaze and not be beaten now. Why should they though? They know that what they have done is an achievement, their own quiet, private achievement. None of them are professionals, just people with ordinary jobs finding it in themselves to pull something extraordinary from within at the weekend. I suppose that what really gives each of them that resolute way of facing the relentless glare of the camera is the knowledge inside that, in a world where front and flim flam often seem to carry the undeserved to such heights, they are the ones who are just doing it.