Friday, June 15, 2007
Simon Bruty - Athletics
To be counted among the best sports photographers in the world takes more than being in the right place at the right time. Simon Bruty gets images that show the unusual within the usual.
That combination of perseverance and knowledge is the key to success on the sideline, whether that sideline is along a soccer field or a ski race course. Bruty recently returned from Torino, Italy, where he photographed the Winter Olympics. The Olympics poses a challenge unlike any other single sporting event, primarily because it's not a single game or race. In fact, there's no more eclectic collection of sports than the Olympics, and yet for most photographers and journalists, the Games are treated as if they're a single event. When you're on assignment for the Olympics, you're essentially chasing a slew of sports, following a mix of athletes, and because of the nature of elimination in many of the sports, those who you need to photograph changes daily. For Sports Illustrated, it's a priority to get shots of the contending athletes and, of course, the winners. That's well and good for a sport like speed-skating, where there are clear medal races, but in alpine skiing, where the best time wins and skiers compete over a matter of a few hours, it's not always clear who's going to come out on top. You have to be ready to be surprised, and that means you're always shooting as if any competitor could be the winner.
The Olympics posed another challenge for Bruty, one that he handles with style and makes look easy. Olympic sports are an eclectic mix by most standards. Speed-skating, biathlon, skeleton, luge, curling—these aren't mainstream sports that a photographer shoots year-round and therefore has plenty of practice. These sports don't have much of a following except once every four years when the world tunes in. Despite that key hurdle, photographers like Bruty are sent to capture the action and bring it home for the pages of SI.
There was a time when a certain class of magazine photographers would be sent on assignment with two things that are in much shorter supply today—time and money. The days of the big-budget, long-term photo assignment are gone. The mission today is to get in, get the shots and get out. Bruty seldom has the opportunity to settle into a place before an event and scope out the whole thing for a few days prior to game time. Instead, he gets off a plane and hits the ground running. Experience has enabled him to emerge from that kind of hurry-up situation successfully every time.
Bruty has been a professional sports shooter since 1984. He got his start with a London sports agency and worked for a number of international sports magazines. European experience is clearly important for a photographer who's called upon to shoot in situations like the Winter Olympics. Europeans tend to have broader sporting interests than we do in America, where football, baseball and basketball take up the lion's share of air time on television and in the pages of the press. Bruty's images display a sensibility in which he treats any sport or athlete he photographs with the utmost respect for the person and the sport itself.
You don't become a staffer for SI simply because you have a flair for catching the action. You reach that lofty position by creating pictures that go beyond the ordinary. Bruty's style is finding the unusual within the usual. To paraphrase Schopenhauer, the task isn't to discover something no one has ever discovered as much as it is to see something that no one has ever seen within that which everyone has discovered. The very best sports images go beyond freezing action. They drill down to the core of the competition. These shots bring you face to face with the determination of the competitors. That's how you become an SI staff photographer.
To see more of Simon Bruty's photography, visit www.simonbruty.com.
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