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The Sports Show

Athletics as Image and Spectacle

2012
Author:

David E. Little

The Sports Show

Documenting the role of photographers and filmmakers in transforming sports from leisure activities to modern-day spectacle

The Sports Show reveals in a dramatic way how photography, film, and new media transformed age-old leisure activities into the pop culture phenomena of sports of today. As it documents the work of innovative early photographers and filmmakers and their role in creating sports as we know it, the book spotlights the artistry and cultural significance of such a shift.

David E. Little’s The Sports Show, a collection of candids, portraits and action scenes, brings us face to face with the anonymous amateurs and world-famous figures from across the past century. The most intimate images may be those of boxing matches, studies in poise and pain. Here are stars- Louis, Graziano, Patterson, Ali- but also many so little remembered as to be unidentifiable. In one picture from the ‘40s, a KO’d boxer hits the canvas while the camera’s saucer-like flash-reflector looms above, a conspicuous indicator of the photographers- and fans - always watching.

The Wall Street Journal

Sporting events as spectacle. Athletes as cultural icons. It was not always so, and The Sports Show reveals in a dramatic way how photography and film and new media transformed age-old leisure activities into the pop culture phenomena of sports in our day. Innovative early photographers and filmmakers were fundamental to this transformation, producing powerful images that put millions of people at the center of the athletic action. As it documents the work of these artists and their role in creating sports as we know it, the book spotlights the artistry and cultural significance of such a shift.

A catalogue of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ exhibition, The Sports Show is a moving picture show in its own right, flashing before us a history of twentieth-century sport caught on film. Here are Jacques-Henri Lartigue’s early twentieth-century photographs of his family’s adventures driving race cars; Eadweard Muybridge’s famous images of “animal locomotion”; photographs by artists as well known as Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Stanley Kubrick, Edward Steichen, Garry Winogrand, Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol, and Andreas Gursky; and an abundance of extraordinary images from anonymous others who made our pastimes stop time. Accompanying the pictures are frames from films featured in the exhibition (and a dialogue transcript of Roger Welch’s O. J. Simpson Project); images from installations; Simon Critchley’s essay on soccer, “Working-Class Ballet”; Joyce Carol Oates’s “On Boxing”; and David E. Little’s essay on spectacle, “How Sports Became the ‘Sports Show’: From the Beginnings of Photography to the Digital Age.”

The Sports Show

David E. Little is curator and head of the Department of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The Sports Show

David E. Little’s The Sports Show, a collection of candids, portraits and action scenes, brings us face to face with the anonymous amateurs and world-famous figures from across the past century. The most intimate images may be those of boxing matches, studies in poise and pain. Here are stars- Louis, Graziano, Patterson, Ali- but also many so little remembered as to be unidentifiable. In one picture from the ‘40s, a KO’d boxer hits the canvas while the camera’s saucer-like flash-reflector looms above, a conspicuous indicator of the photographers- and fans - always watching.

The Wall Street Journal