james dodd – olympic dreams

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James Dodd

Olympic Dreams

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Sport funding in the UK has increased dramatically as a result of winning the 2012 Olympic bid. Knowing the eyes of the world will soon be upon the nation, much of this funding has been spent scouting exceptional youth talent and intensely developing them into potential Olympians. Over the past 2 years (2008-2010), James has been following the British junior diving team in Sheffield UK, documenting their trials and tribulations en route to the games. This work explores the pressures and expectations placed upon the youth of a nation aiming to succeed, and in this case reach their olympic dreams. This project is ongoing.

 

Bio

James Dodd, a 26 year old UK based photographer from Sheffield, originally studied Computing and Business Practices, before completing his photojournalism training through the National Council for the Training of Journalists. A founding member of the photography collective Statement Images (www.statementimages.co.uk) James is also the current photographer & curator in residence at Bank Street Arts (www.bankstreetarts.com) in Sheffield. Through his work James covers a vast range of subjects and concepts, from hard news coverage, to in-depth documentary series on sport and pastimes.

 

Related links

www.jamesdodd.net

 

78 Responses to “james dodd – olympic dreams”


  • Hi James, congratulations on publication! Photographs 1 and 26 are the ones for me. I imagine that this is a hard essay: there are only so many diving photographs that you can take before repetition occurs. I’d encourage you to look beyond the pool and to follow your subjects into their normal everyday life. Not everyone aspires to become an Olympic Champion so what motivates your subjects (and the motive will be different in many cases) may well be the real story.
    These words of wisdom come from one who has often looked at photographs that he has taken and said to himself “why the hell didn’t I follow through with this or that encounter!”. Usually it’s shyness and fear of rejection (not just me but almost everyone). The irony is that when you do ask for access, many people will just say “no problem”.

    Best wishes,

    Mike.

  • Beautiful dramatic inky pictures, James. I’m really pleased to see them here.

    And good suggestion from Mike R, for many of us.

  • amazing piece of work James.

  • great – dedication.. pretty much devoid of ¨sports snapper¨ cliche, although perhaps some repetition.. as said above though – probably inevitable.

    an interesting eye for documentary photos.. i guess you are a photographer, rather than a sports photographer

    d

  • repetition repetition repetition repetition.
    Some arresting images, especially with the narrow tonal range, but there are only so many you can see before boredom sets in. I think for this portion of the story it could be told just as effectively with way less images. For me it wastes the power of this type of treatment to just repeat it ad nauseum.

    also “This work explores the pressures and expectations placed upon the youth of a nation aiming to succeed” ….err, where??

  • Love the grainy under water stuff more than the above water pictures. Do you climb James?

  • JAMES,

    Of course some repetition but you have some wonderful photographs… Your entry picture is absolutely amazing…

    Congrats.

    Eric

  • James

    I love #1 and #32 is simply spectacular.

    Thankyou for a fresh and original take on sports photographs. This is a wonderful essay. I’m normally not a big fan of over the top contrast, but for the most part you seem to have gotten away with it here. I have to agree that a further edit would be useful.

    Congratulations and good luck with this. What a great start.

  • I agree with everyone above. This is an essay about diving, not about the divers. But five of these pictures (any five) are fabulous.

  • Great !
    Some underwater are so spectacular!
    Congratulations
    Un saludo
    Neven

  • Thanks people.

    @john gladdy:
    re: “This work explores the pressures and expectations placed upon the youth of a nation aiming to succeed”

    Covering the literal celebrations and despair for me was too obvious a route to take.
    I mean, how many times has that angle been covered? the whole behind the scenes aspect, fly on the wall, those in-between moments… most of these works just tend to blur into one to me, and I wanted to produce something different.

    Anyway, while I do cover that sort of thing to some extent and I feel like I’ve exhausted this angle, the work is still very much a work in progress (especially with 2 years left to cover the full story), so it has legs, and could evolve into anything.

    Regarding the edit. To be honest the presentation here is wider than I had imagined, I thought about 20 images would be presented, I gave the guys a wide batch of images for them to narrow it down from and I suppose this is their interpretation.

    Also, I titled the piece Olympic Dreams… not sure where “Olympic Games” came from?

  • Anyway, while I do cover that sort of thing to some extent and I feel like I’ve exhausted this angle, the work is still very much a work in progress (especially with 2 years left to cover the full story), so it has legs, and could evolve into anything.,,,,,,,,, not need to comment then if that is the type of response one can expect.

  • @imants: why do you feel the need to comment?

    PS: By “exhausted this angle” I mean the work shown (not sure if that could cause some confusion?), and not the traditional documentary angle – which I think could be a route to take the work closer to the actual games?

    Like I said, it’s very much a work in progress.

  • crap, that was supposed to say not to comment! :)

  • I enjoyed every image and did not tire of it – although, certainly it was repetitive. That didn’t matter to me. And I did feel the struggle these kids are going through.

    Being one who has always been dedicated to available light, I was impressed by how you isolated feeling and motion by your use of strong flash and high contrast.

    You almost made me rethink my commitment to available light, which has never been totally absolute, but awfully close.

    Congratulations! Your spot on Burn is well earned.

  • Hi James!! Congratulations on this publication. This is my first post on Burn and I usually follow the essays away from the discussions, but as I’ve spent almost 10 years as an athlete and coach of swimmers and triathletes, this essay really interest me.
    Some pictures are great,5,8 and 26 would look fabulous on the wall with big, big prints. I enjoy the pictures u explored different compositions like 7,9,19 and 27 as example, but I also think some pictures are a bit repetitive, as others have said.
    What I´ve been always curious about high perfomance athletes It’s not their performance but their feeling of pain, anxiety, frustration, exhaustion… and when I read “This work explores the pressures and expectations…” I tought I would see some investigation about those feelings, number 20 maybe…
    I am not sure about the title “Olympic Games”, once the subject is very especific and covers just one sport, but as you mentioned this project is ongoing, it will probably make sense in the future.
    Thanks for posting, happy to see this essay here.

  • congrats James for making it on burn!
    The project idea is quite interesting. I do not really see the “the pressures and expectations placed upon the youth of a nation aiming to succeed”, but rather some cool shots, mostly those under water.
    #1 is my fave!

    @ Mike R: thanks for your tips, I will definitely keep them in mind!

  • James in the response to Jon you have abdicated from your responsibilities to the essay posted by stating “I gave the guys a wide batch of images for them to narrow it down from and I suppose this is their interpretation.” Wich come across as …it is not my fault.

  • Congrats on getting published on Burn. Image 1 is incredible.

    Of the 33 images, there seems to be alot of them that are the same thing. There’s the underwater shots, the dives, but almost nothing that shows the personality of the kids, or the context of the environment. Image 20 is just about the only one that shows anything that makes us want to connect with the subject. How do these kids interact with the coaches? Do they go to school together? What’s life like for them outside of the training? What’s it like when they get selected to advance in training or get cut? Right now, everything seems sterile.

    Keep at it, but dive further in.

  • James:

    Frankly, i LOVED this story, i love most of the photographs and i was taken entirely into the silent and redundant, yes, redundant world of diving and training……..i loved the quality and the music of the grain, i loved the visual use of the natural elements of this environment (movement, wave, bubbles, exhalation spun into a cascade of walled crevis and light)….the extension of their ‘diving’ world, their training, the black silent hum of the water underneath punctuated by the burst of the surface and bodies bent and spiraling….all of that, into mine…

    some of the pics are just visually spectacular and they held my attention, including some of the more abstract one….though i viewed this essay less as a documentary approach but a conceptual and aesthetic exploration of the form of bodies in motion and in water: an aesthetic exercise that is buoyed by it’s verisimilitude reporting….that’s a lovely combination…

    as to the concern of repetition…well, training is just that: repetition repetition repetition…and just as Philip Glass’ music is defined by the endless repetition and variation of a basic musical scale which leads to both the suggestion of endurance and the small, marks of difference that highlight the beauty of repetition, so too this essay…it is actually the small variations that made me the most excited…but, i believe, aestethically and philosophically, in the need for repetition: it creates, often, nuance much more interestingly than if every picture is different….

    James, I am sure you are aware of Trent and Narelle’s book ‘the seventh wave’, but if not, check it out….but please have a look at Narelle’s extraordinary underwater projects (filled with lots of repetition, btw) “watercolors’ and her most recent series ‘the place in between’

    Although Trent is the more famous, Narelle is a brilliant photographer/artist…

    http://www.agencevu.com/photographers/photographer.php?id=122

    http://www.stillsgallery.com.au/artists/autio/

    congratulations on the publication and thanks for the beautiful work…

    sorry for the non-poetic comment…busy week..

    cheers
    running
    bob

  • A couple really good shots… so many missed shots… it’s OK – good attempt… but as a photo essay – it’s really boring…

  • Love it James. It was such a welcome surprise to find a new essay that made me jump to attention. Love the motion, the light, all of the photos with just the black black and flash white. Yet the usual flash look that always feels so severe and turns me off was not there. What a relief to see these photos. There was repetition but I enjoyed the photos so much I was ok with it. Final edit I am sure you will pare it down. Congrats James for being on Burn. If you don’t want to show the behind the scenes and between the cracks of the emotional side of this story leave it out of your description and state you want to show what it takes to train for the olympics or something like that. Case closed.

  • JOHN ….ERIC

    the repetition is my fault or the computer program fault…or, at least not James’…i edited this down before publication to about 22 pictures….and moved things around just a bit…when i went to publish , my edit just would not “take”…by the time i realized this, i had run off to NatGeo and was working on Rio and had no way to get back and fix it…when Anton told me the system was fixed and i went in to edit, i somehow left in more than my first edit..hit me different second time around….now i think we are at 25 …which still has a drumbeat , but in this case part of the story i think…..i may still take out one or two more…you are right John though about not showing any pictures which would support the “pressures” bit…however, i think this essay very well seen…not sure that i agree with those who think James necessarily needs to move into another aspect of these divers lives…i simply like the art of this…getting away from the pool and “into their lives” can become dangerously close to another “day in the life of…” sequence…for me, the most tired of journalistic tools….

    cheers,david

  • jump
    and
    swim
    black
    and
    white…
    bodies
    and
    strength….
    ***

    I LOVE the contrast of your images.. the rich blacks… I could imagine luscious prints of these….
    **

  • It is a pity to show this amazing sport with a very dark point of view, may be colours shold be better.
    I love the idea.
    cheers

  • Number 1 is beautiful, spiritual even. Olympic dreaminess.
    Great photos.
    Maddie.

  • Thanks for this essay (just love some of the pictures, the tighter edit works fine for me), which I already knew.. it’s very interesting to read the comments also, gives insight and ideas.

    The essay hits more than close to home (following a different angle of the same dreams).. I’m really looking forward to where you’ll take it the next two years, James!

  • Been a while, but nice to see this on burn, James. And nice watching it progress, taking it all the way to the games would be great.

  • I’m not generally a big fan of high contrast black and white, but I loved every image in this essay, and I loved the essay as a whole as well. Simply stunning, beautiful visual images. I can’t agree that James should have looked further into lives, background, etc…. I agree with DAH that, as is, the images are simply lovely art. Maybe a little tighter editing would make an even more effective essay, but in fact I enjoyed the repitition and never became bored. It’s so, so hard to come up with a truly original eye on sports, yet James has succeeded admirably. Some of the best black and white I have seen yet on BURN.

  • I like the photography very much and appreciate the essay as well (22 images at this counting, sorry I missed the others). Personally, I like the ones that are most totally devoid of the outside pool’s context — most of the underwater shots, #5 and #19. I’d like to see an essay made up entirely of shots in those styles. Usually, I favor longer essays, but in this case I think it would be much more powerful with far fewer images. The best five hanging in a gallery would make a very compelling presentation. I don’t mean that as a criticism, much less a negative criticism. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see more of them and look forward to seeing what you will do with two more years to pursue it.

    The only ones I’m not thrilled with are the bubbles that look like confetti (numbers 3 and 22). I’ve seen the general idea of those shots work, but think you need to find a way to freeze the action to get the best look. Perhaps that’s impossible underwater but you maybe you could find away to isolate a splash and get the effect. Or maybe you’ve done it every which way and prefer that look, which is fine.

  • This is brilliant! Thanks, you made my day

  • Well done Jimbo, love to see this up at Bank Street Arts!

  • Hugely refreshing project. Magical really. Humans as birds and fish. Water and gravity. Dark and light. Superlative shot making too. Entirely marvelous.

  • Good to see your work on Burn, James. I hope that it will evolve into something unexpectedly – even by you – fabulous. However I must say that the opening photograph alone it has a stronger impact than the series as a whole. It is visually arresting, enigmatic, open to various readings and goes far beyond the objectives of the project so far. And for that I’m grateful.

  • DAH “not sure that i agree with those who think James necessarily needs to move into another aspect of these divers lives…i simply like the art of this…getting away from the pool and “into their lives” can become dangerously close to another “day in the life of…” sequence…for me, the most tired of journalistic tools…” a very interesting remark. I’d agree with you about Day in the Life but, on a broader note, it has been illuminating to see what has been posted on Burn since its inception. I had expected more photojournalism genre essays but I find more of what I would call Fine Art. Nothing wrong with that and hey, It’s your magazine!

    My point here is that, as we know, the traditional outlets for photography are dwindling and the big question being asked is how to make a living from photography. So do you think that Fine Art is the way forward for emerging photographers? Perhaps a topic for discussion.

    As for should James move away from the pool? Of course he should! He wil never know what riches could be mined if he doesn’t go prospecting. It may lead to another project of move this project in a totally new, radical direction …. or not but we, and James will never know unless he tries. I say “milk it, kid”!

    Best,

    Mike.

    P.S. What happened to Jim?

  • mike r – if you look at james’ website i think you’ll be able to see that he’s pretty adept at pursuing the more traditional photojournalistic route of telling a story.

    why are we as photographers so intent on pushing our opinion of ‘how it should be done’ on others?

    (disclaimer – i’ve been guilty of this in the past as well…)

  • Cheers guys..

    @DAH.
    cheers for correcting those little issues and for everything else.

    Apologies for largely ducking out of comments today, I’ve been quite busy arrange an exhibition at the gallery (simon roberts – motherland).
    anyway. with the plug out of the way ;)

    @mike.
    I’ve certainly both entertained and even attempted (in some situations) different ideas and directions for this work.
    These have even included video, which I still think could work?

    Basically the presentation here and what I’ve shown elsewhere (at present) doesn’t really show everything I’ve done with this subject. Just one side of it.

    You’re right tho it could lead to another project, or move this work in a totally different direction :)

    @ben anderson.
    I’ve been working on ideas for a small informal exhibition of olympic dreams, wouldn’t really be a standard exhibition mind (pictures on white walls), would probably be labeled as more of an installation I suppose?

  • ben. because we all see slightly differently??? maybe?

    I like this edit more, less redundancy for sure. still cant figure out the conforming to the stated aim thing, but forgetting that the images are good just as images.

    james. As a point of interest(to me anyway) how much post work is there on this?
    At a rough guess it looks like a high asa digital slow shutter second curtain fill flash kinda deal for the shots, and a hard burn/vingette in potatoshop for the look. Matters not, but this stuff interests me.

  • or maybe getting the vignette from stopping right down.

  • Benroberts, I would never push my opinion on anyone else: constructive criticism only. That said, I didn’t look at James’s web-site. Fair comment, Ben. There are some really strong photographs here. I just think that it could go further; which, from James’s comment, so does he. We all have to remember that this is work in progress and that James should take what is positive, for him, from what is written here.

    Best,

    Mike.

  • @John Gladdy.
    some looks vignetted because of the masking on the flash head, some because I’m shooting wide open, some because of the fall off from the light in the water etc.
    overall a red filter conversion. curves, and a bit of dodge and burning

    and yes, high asa/iso indeed (or at least for the non flash stuff). shot at 5000 on some days.

    @Mike.
    I am happy with it as is, but I just wouldn’t rule other angles out in future, I think I’d be a fool to do that.

  • James –

    Nice work, I like it.

    Initially I thought repetition (which has already been addressed) however on viewing a number of times I think it’s actually overwhelming rather than repetitive – the sheer depth and contrast is, I think, just that – overwhelming.

    In large format print I suspect they will be most impressive. The only thing is overwhelming may not necessarily make for the most ease of viewing – nevertheless these images are striking.

    As a potential constructive commentary i’d suggest that while they are most striking as i’ve described, i’m not so sure there is an angle coming through – not that it particularly needs one, but if the intention was to say something about the funding, the scouts, the olympians – it doesn’t really express that (at least for me). They are *just* very striking images (hah! *just* :).

    All in all, a great job imho.

    Cheers.

  • James:

    Cool stuff. You should check out my work on breakdancers (on my site or powerHouse book CYPHER) – some similar flash isolation of subject against dark background going on. I like this style. Only change I might make is I would have #21 end the piece (like a bookend with #1) and replace #3 with #22. The bubbles of #22 work strongly for me with the footprint of #4. #3 just looks like confetti or something.

    Best of luck with the rest of the project,

    Charles

  • James,

    I am so glad that you didn’t take the obvious route…I think it could be worked a little more but so far I think this series is great… selling prints?

    Congrats!

  • @aliciavera.
    yes, selling prints! always. get in touch if you’re interested.

  • Like outer space… otherworldly.

  • Really just great work. The “less precise” say much more to me.

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