I am an ironman

‘Ironman’ triathlon is an endurance sport, which involves swimming, cycling and running. Competitors have 17 hours to complete a course of some 140 miles. For the last 8 years I have actively competed in ‘Ironman’ races all over the world. Training for ‘Ironman’ triathlon forms a huge part of my life and the fact that I can call myself ‘an Ironman’ has a major positive influence on my self-esteem.

I am an Ironman is a series of self-portraits. My intention was to try to convey what it feels like to train for an ‘Ironman’ race. Each portrait was made immediately after a training workout with me still dressed in my training kit. The idea was to capture myself at moments when I was too tired and distracted to pose. I see the work as a response to the typical ‘heroic’ imagery of ironman athletes seen in the media, advertising and on the Internet.

All of the portraits have the same formal structure. I am pictured centre frame, three-quarter length against a neutral background. The lighting is plain. The whole approach was about minimising self-conscious posing and photographic artifice. In total I made 30 portraits.

Rineke Dijkstra’s self-portraiture was a key influence. In an early self-portrait Dijkstra photographed herself immediately after swimming 30 laps in a pool. She was searching for a way to disengage the natural inclination to present a desired self-image through posing. (Dijkstra, 2012, pp 46). Elina Brotherus has used similar approaches. She has stated ‘It’s only possible for me to photograph when something really happens, which makes the images authentic, emotionally genuine.’ (Brotherus, 1999).

The work is presented as a 4-minute video to be played as a loop and a single composite portrait created by merging the 30 portraits into a single image.

The video fades slowly and rhythmically from portrait to portrait accompanied by the sound of a slow heartbeat. This emphasises the relentless and repetitive nature of training day after day. The sequence of different facial expressions, poses and gestures also draws attention to the illusive nature of identity as evidenced by surface appearance. This is echoed in the composite image, which is to be shown alongside the video installation. A single facial expression emerges but the fragments from which it is constructed remain visible.

I am an Ironman is part of my wider investigation into strategies portrait photographers use for ‘disarming the pose’ of their subjects.

Keith Greenough, April 2013


Brotherus E. (1999) Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe (1997-1999). [online]. Elina Brotherus Website. Available from: http://www.elinabrotherus.com/photography/das-madchen-sprach-von-liebe/ [Accessed on 24th June 2012]

Dykstra, R. (2012), Rineke Dykstra: A Retrospective. New York: The Solomon Guggenheim Foundation


I am an Ironman was exhibited at the Photofusion Salon 2013 and at the [(6)] Exhibition at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield in July 2014.


I am an Ironman Video




[(6)] Installation Bank Street Arts July 2014-1

[(6)] Installation Bank Street Arts July 2014-1

'I am an Ironman'  ©Keith Greenough 2012

‘I am an Ironman’
©Keith Greenough 2012

2 Responses “I am an ironman” →
2 Trackbacks For This Post
  1. Ex - autobiographical self-portraiture – Andrew Fitzgibbon (513879)

    […] For this exercise, I have reflected on the work suggested in the OCA project: Keith Greenough’s, I am iron man (see photo-graph.org); […]

  2. Project One: Autobiographical Self-Portraiture | Chantelle Grace Photography

    […] https://photo-graph.org/i-am-an-ironman/  ( Accessed 24/10/2016) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: