Sochi Olympics, Day 5: Emotions and Aesthetics

Sochi Olympics, Day 5: Emotions and Aesthetics


Feb. 10th, 2014

Writing the headline I am losing count on the days… But been here a week now and I think I will be falling into this routine of posting every second day. At least I try to do it, we’ll see what happens.

I have covered Xcountry, ski jumping and biathlon so far. I would love to do snowboarding, alpine and skating — but: I am profes­sional i.e. my first and foremost duty is to the client paying the bill and to do what they ask.

And this is my seventh Olympics, so I have done other disciplines in the past plus I know I will do other stuff still during these games — at least hockey and maybe alpine. I’d love to do speed skating as well: there is something so beautiful in the simple aesthetics of the reflec­tions on ice and the simplicity of the action.

People often think that great photo­graphy is done of e.g. snowboarding or hockey with lots of “action” but perso­nally I feel some of the best images are done of the most simple things you see. A sort of minimalist approach to photo­graphy intrigues me, I guess.

Yesterday shooting the biathlon I fell in love with the bokeh of the spotlights you see in the image of Mari Laukkanen above. As any photo­grapher will tell you, the background is more than half of the picture.

Maybe this is the philo­sop­hical me looking for some Zen-like experience…

Photography legends

One of the nicest things covering the olympics is meeting the great people and working with the best of the best. Saw Dave Burnett the other day — still remember when I met him for the first time in Athens Olympics ten years ago. I was shooting USA-Greece basketball game, EOS1 and 200mm F1.8 if I remember correctly, and this guy with a bit of gray sits next to me — with a Speedgraf (model 1949?) in his hands.

We do some small talk and after a while he says: “You know, I don’t see the picture happening here” and then he leaves. I don’t remember what I thought, probably “well, they come in all flavors…” or something similar — and stupid. And then, coming home, I encoun­tered his work.

Amazing, truly amazing images and what a person behind those images. And nowadays, when I do teaching I almost always make a point of showing his work as an example of great work I truly respect. Work in a league of its own.

kaiThe other night while shooting ski jumping I met with Kai Phaffenbach (on the right) from Reuters and the first thing he says is“Hey Kari, good to see you. How the hell did you do that circular image I saw in your blog?”

And couple of moments later Mike Dalder of Reuters asks me the same thing. Felt nice knowing these guys had taken a look at what I do. Quite a compliment, really. I explained it to Mike but I guess halfway thru my “equirec­tan­gular inverted and changing the polar coordi­nates” — expla­nation he sort of lost it… :-)

People you meet

And along the years it’s not only photo­graphers but other media people you learn to know as well. YLE typically has loads of cameramen in these games (as they simply are good in what they do) and I don’t know how many times I have worked with these guys. I thought this combi­nation of pictures proves the law of photo­graphy that 1+1 is more than two in some cases.


Seriously though: I did consider for a while if this is an appropriate thing to do. Making “funny” reference to something which happened like seventy years ago and which must have been a devas­tating experience to a whole generation… but yes, I think it is. It is about life that happened and it is great we can meet in the olympics now — which is just sports. Let’s keep it that way.

True and genuine emotion

Not going to ponder more on that… but on the following I will.

I heard the IOC had given reprimand to the Norwegian team about using the black ribbon the other day — for the respect of their teammate who unexpec­tedly lost her brother the day before.

Because the Olympics should be about fun and positive feelings” or something similar (i.e. total bullshit) said the statement from the organizers.

Please! This is about real people. About real life. About real feelings. About all aspects of life. About everything which makes us human.

Or it should be. It should not be a display of fake emotions, tears of joy thru slow-motion cameras while the national anthem is playing on the background.

Yes: it can be that too — but it has to be real. Not fabricated drama. And sorrow is as essential an emotion to us as is joy. It is what makes us what we are. It makes us human. Isn’t that what the olympics should be about? Us humans in our best?

The image below of Marit Björgen is just a generic image. Could be from any compe­tition, even the rings are barely visible.

What sets it apart — what makes it real, human history — is the black ribbon on her left arm.


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