In today’s class reading, “Framed and Mounted: Sport Through the Photographic Eye” by David Rowe, he discusses the role images have in sports photography.
Rowe believes sports photography is even more gender-biased today than it has been in the past. Like most still images, sports photos also carry a lot of connotation behind them and often time are tied to specific ideologies.
For Rowe, he argues that sports photography places women in a submissive role, often times showing female athletes being dominated by male athletes. I stumbled upon a related article, titled, “Media’s Effects on Perceptions of Athletes’ Gender and Race“, I found a similar argument being made, which supports Rowe’s stance.
The author, Shailendra Sharma, noted that “throughout history, women have struggled to gain equality in all walks of life. It is no different in the world of sport. Sport has long been thought a man’s domain, with women viewed strictly as spectators”. This is very evident in many of the photos published in today’s sports magazines and other various publications.
Not only are women viewed as inferior to men in sports photography, but more often than not they are not pictured in many sports magazines in general. For example, Rowe says “women continue to be underrepresented in the highly prestigious world of sport” (Rowe, 146).
A perfect example of a sports publication that idolizes women athletes as sex symbols is Sports Illustrated, which publishes an annual magazine entirely devoted to female athletes posing provocatively in bikinis. According to Rowe there was a study done which was, “an analysis of 1979 Sports Illustrated Silver Anniversary Issue, which found that 60 percent of all photographs of sportswomen showed them in ‘passive, non-athletic roles’ compared with only 44 percent of all photographs of sportsmen” (146). Clearly there is a pretty big discrepancy.
While not all sports photography is aimed at hindering the image of female athletes, it seems to be an ongoing method in today’s communication world. However, it’s important to note there are other uses of the sports image, such as “the task of creating sports social memory” (Rowe, 169). For example, who could ever forget the time Kerri Strug managed to win the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics for the Women’s Gymnastics Team? That’s a moment that will carry on forever as an American memory all thanks to photography.
Questions to Ponder:
1) What are some other beneficial uses of sports photography?
2) What’s an example of a famous sports photo that sticks in your memory and why?