August 2012

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olympicswithouttickets

#olympicswithouttickets became a hashtag for my twitter and Instagram feed as I recorded spectators attending the Hyde Park venue for a selection of Olympic sporting events. Usually I would have employed a medium format kit for such a project but recently I have become interested in examining the changing perception of photographic quality in lieu of iphoneography and the limits of its multimedia applications. This became as much a study of the properties of the camera as it was a photographic typology. 

I became inspired by the reaction to the empty seat fiasco that was plaguing the Games. Early on it became a fixation in the media – that with so many people wanting to see event after event, and not being fortunate enough to purchase a ticket through the ticket distribution scheme that was in place, the urban mythology and conspiracies that were both community and media fed were becoming a dark, dark cloud. However with the televised road events like the marathons and cycle races people saw an opportunity and spirit in themselves that turned these events around. And suddenly it felt like the Games returned to the people. Hyde Park was unique in that it provided a container – a sort of natural stadium where spectators could watch from. It had its barricades and multi-tiered security enforcements plus it provided a grand and ironic view across the Serpentine where one could see the empty seats in the ticketed stands.

After the televised Women’s Triathlon introduced the general public to this venue, over two hundred and fifty thousand spectators made their way to the park for the Men’s Triathlon and similar numbers for the Men’s and Women’s Marathon swims. Overnight it seemed a temporary real estate formed and a valued property was acquired no longer through the usual means of having a ticket or not but through how early one arrived to this park. As time drew nearer to each event and the population of the park climbed, the viewing opportunities thinned. If security hadn’t sealed it off, or it wasn’t blocked by trees, plants or water, it was quickly filled by rows of four to twenty five people deep at prime spots to “catch a view”. 

These images are group portraits at the moment a swimmer or runner was coming into view, medals were being handed out, or the national anthem of the winner played. These groups herd together in the attempt to catch what little view was available. Stretching necks, peering through bushes, climbing onto higher ground, these are portraits examining not the individual in the group but the group as individual.  We see how patterns and collections form as a result to the event , the contours of the landscape and of course an expression of our natural curiosity. But they also show the spirit of the Games, the draw and importance in baring witness. To see something, anything that was an athlete in action meant that in some way, vicariously or directly but most importantly in person, one shared in the making of a nation’s history and legacy. Witnessing something allowed not only for this connection to the Olympiad but a unification amongst the citizenry and something that seemed very positive. Not only were individuals and families earning the right to claim – “We saw the Olympics” but they changed the direction and national feeling that was brewing in the confusion of the Olympics without tickets.  

 ©karlgrupe2012

©karlgrupe2012

©karlgrupe2012

©karlgrupe2012

©karlgrupe2012

©karlgrupe2012

©karlgrupe2012