I am an Ironman update

Posted on June 6, 2012


I made some good progress with this project over the last month. I have been away for most of May and so blogging has taken a back seat. This does not mean that I have been standing still – I have been working on several projects in parallel.

Whilst I was away in Lanzarote I had the opportunity to make portraits of several of my ironman friends. The more I have worked on this project the more I am starting to think that the project is really about documenting my extended Ironman ‘family’.I have been participating in the sport for about 8 years and over this time my wife and I have made many new friends all over the world. These people are the subjects for my work. For me what is striking about the group  is that they are just ordinary people. Ordinary that is except that they have all elected to take on one of the most physically demanding sports, Ironman triathlon.

I am moving towards the idea of calling the work ‘Ironman Family’ and to explain the work as a documentary piece recording my extended ‘family’ of Ironman friends. ‘Family’ portraits are normally associated with the ‘snapshot’ aesthetic and sitters are conditioned by social conventions for such portraiture. Familiy ‘snapshots’ tend to document the positive side of life – happy events such as births, weddings, parties and such like. People feel that they should smile, embrace one another and perhaps clown around. In many instances it is likely that the facial expressions and body language do not represent how the people depicted are really feeling.

In documenting my extended ‘Ironman’ family I wanted to get away from the ‘snapshot’ aesthetic. To do this I decided to use a formal  approach for making the portraits. I elected to use a medium format camera, studio lights and a plain background. This approach slows the whole process down and adds an element of gravitas to the proceedings. Beforehand, I asked each of my subjects to wear something which signifies their status as an Ironman. This could mean dressing up in race kit, or simply wearing finisher’s bracelets. It was their choice. During the shoot my instructions to them were brief. I asked them to look into the camera, to relax and to be themselves. I have found that this whole process disarms my subjects as they no longer know what is expected of them. I sense that this has created a tension, which may be evident in their facial expressions and body language. This of course my view, it will be up to others viewing the portraits to form their own opinion.

I have now captured 14 portraits. In total I am hoping to build a portfolio of around 30. The collage below presents the current state of play.