Introduction

Eye-Level Optical Viewfinders

The culture of sport has consistently driven innovation in the world of photography. The market for improved technology — faster shutter speeds, video playback options in live broadcasting, more durable hardware — is related to our desire to better photograph sports. In the late 19th century through the middle of the 20th century, this meant making photography more cost-effective and long-lasting, as well as engaging with metaphysical questions about how to understand motion through the analysis of a still image. From that point onward until now, the discipline of photojournalism and the shift to independent, democratic photography in the palms of our hands has led to innovations that make capturing and sharing images as fast an easy as possible.

"Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston" Photograph

However, beyond just the technical images, sports has shaped not just how we photograph, but what we photograph. The plurality of the most celebrated images in the canon of iconic photography concerns sporting events. Why might this be? Sports have always been a preoccupation of mankind. As far back as we can remember, our primordial instincts are satisfied by playing (and winning) games. However, within the past century we've begun to better understand the relationship sports has to mainstream culture, to concepts such as politics, nationality, identity. The speed of sport issued a technical challenge to photography that the medium rose to meet, but why we photograph sports has consistently been to preserve a microcosm of our culture at its highest moments — and its lowest — on film.