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March 21, 2011 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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When Sport Meets Art

The spheres of the visual arts and the sporting world often seem at first glance to be at odds with one another. However, the two disciplines constantly intertwine as each represent individuals striving towards similar ends; whether it be a broken record, an original painting or simply gathering together some cash, artists and sportspeople are inextricably linked by purpose. One particular avenue in which we can see both codes being practised simultaneously is in the field of sports photography; the artistic documentation of a sporting event.

In 1918, the Melbourne Deep Rock Swimming and Life Saving Club enlisted the service of Solomon Islander swimmer Alick Wickham in an effort to fundraise for returned veterans. His part in the ceremony was to be the highlight, attempting the world record for the longest dive from board to water.

The photograph in question shows Wickham after he has leapt from the board into the abyss of the Yarra River Valley; poised in ascent just moments before he would begin his monumental fall. It was published in popular Australian newspaper Referee, and in that role it served to advertise the event and feed the cult following Wickham was gathering in Australia. It highlights the role that viewpoint has in observing an image. We are placed underneath the act, looking up at this feat of human endeavour. Through the publishing of this image the public were wowed by the act of courage it displayed but most only saw it in that one frame. The fact that he reportedly spent four days in hospital afterwards is not communicated by this image—the act is immortalised in this one frame of heroism unscarred by consequence. Art thrives on sporting acts because they are imbued with emotion and drama before the artist gets there—their role is to showcase it in the best possible manner. The observing artist is also essential for the sportsperson as the effect of their actions is magnified through the artist’s work.

Works like this create a stronger presence of physical, emotional and artistic effort because they are essentially collaborative pieces. The best stories in art are the ones which have been slightly exaggerated and the disciplines of sport and photography are often able to work together to exemplify this.

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