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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2006-03-30

The Great Disconnect: Chapter 2006
By David Burnett, Contact Press Images

Sometimes I become just another citizen-cipher in the world of the 21st Century. No pass, no badge, no credential for which I have to agree never to resell an image, nor even to let my daughter look at the pictures without an official person in a green or yellow sport coat providing oversight. Just me, the typical viewer of the new decade who has to stand there while the speeded up world of the Media (Medias?) throw their supposed best shot.

Torino for me was one of those times. I came THAT close to working out a credential and shooting situation for the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. But in the end, the client wanted way too much of my flesh, in addition to the pictures, and I decided to be a grownup about it and just watch, read, and mouse around my own version of The Games like the other six billion unaccrediteds in this world.

It was not an easy thing to do. The Olympics have the same addictive luster as a Presidential campaign. Once you done a few of them, you start to think a combination of "Wow, I'm actually COVERING this event" mixed with "Oh shit, I have to cover THIS event?" Perhaps much of what we do as photographers could include those lines, but when you are shooting the same thing that hundreds of TV cameras are covering, and they ALWAYS out number you, it ups the ante of nervous tension and the need to always be "ON."

I missed Opening Ceremonies, I think I was at a dinner that night, and later, watching, continued to be amazed that all those people would be parading around an oval in the cold at 3 in the morning.

Oh, you mean it wasn't LIVE?! Well, perhaps it should have been. The idea of delaying the real thing for 'prime time' seems once again to have backfired on the geniuses that design the TV coverage. They give you hours and hours of curling in the morning when, if it were something really interesting (ok, I like curling to… but up to a point) they could have created a real buzz with real events.

Hockey, and not just U.S. (did someone say the word 'disappointment?'), luge, bobsled. They are real sports, with real action and real stories.

The major media (including the folks I sometimes work for) bought into the Bodie Miller thing as much as his sponsors did. Another multi-million dollar gamble, toying with the entertainment value yet, again, and losing badly. We all know that it's a money show, bought and paid for by TV and we get the crumbs.

But when even interest in the crumbs is being nibbled away by the unimaginative TV productions, it takes away from the general desire for knowing about, and watching the Games.

Sadly, with so much photographic talent in one place (or more correctly, several places) that we photographers must necessarily take a back seat to lousy TV, well, it's beyond stupid, and beyond tragic.

As Sports morphs from news "...the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant..." to Entertainment, the whole outlook on what we can and are able to do changes with it. The Olympics, and Winter Games in particular, seem to have become the haven of participants who had fallen victim to personal tragedy in the last 96 hours. A parent struck down by cancer; a coach run over by a double decker bus. So, the poor reader, viewer, listener, who bargained for a great sports story is once again treated to a badly overproduced, maudlin tear jerker rather than letting that consumer make his or her own decisions on how to see the Games.

Newspapers seem to have a different take than magazines (it's tough to be relevant a week later!), but both have a chance for and generally fulfill an obligation to get their readers well thought out, well produced work.

I kept looking at Yahoo during those two weeks for newly posted pictures more than I did the lame TV coverage, and while its only a semi-complete version of what happened, I saw a lot of great images (albeit 2"x3" at 72 dpi.) I know that bitching and moaning about our ever-degrading world (witness the Nobel Laureate intelligence of the LPGA in Honolulu just days after the Games --- who HIRES these people?) doesn't seem to accomplish very much. But I enjoyed seeing, when I could find it, great photography. And watching all the photographers in the background at skating was perhaps as interesting as the skaters on the ice.

We sometimes see the world, even when we're not shooting, as if it were through a viewfinder. May it always be so, even if we aren't there for the long bus rides, freezing security check points, and fabulous late-night pasta.


(Photojournalist David Burnett's work has appeared in publications such as Time, Fortune and ESPN Magazine. In 1976 he co-founded Contact Press Images and in a recent issue of American Photo magazine Burnett was named one of the "100 Most Important People in Photography. His work can been seen at his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/members.html?id=89 and personal website: http://www.davidburnett.com/)

Related Links:
Burnett's member page

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