Wide, Wide, Panoramic World of Sports
BY NORMAN BORDEN | Paolo Pellizzari is a Belgium-based photographer who has added a unique perspective to the art of sports photography — a panoramic, 135-degree wide view of iconic sporting events like the Tour De France and the Olympics.
Until I saw this thoroughly engaging exhibition at Anastasia Photo, my idea of a memorable sports photograph (probably very typical) was one that managed to capture a close-up of a thrilling sports moment, often with the help of a telephoto lens. In fact, noted sports photographer David Burnett observed, “Sports photography is 50 percent about positioning and 50 percent about timing — what is left is what makes all the difference.”
As this show often dramatically demonstrates, Pellizzari has made a difference, as well as a name for himself, by taking sports photography to another level. He doesn’t rely on digital tricks but rather on a special camera called a Noblex Panorama whose lens rotates 360 degrees as it exposes a strip of film (yes, film). In explaining the technical details, he says, “The camera is upside down and I move with the action…the moment that I’m looking to capture happens by chance since it takes time for the film to move.”
The way Pellizzari sees it, “This is not conventional sports photography, the kind that sticks to the hero from the breakaway to the podium. I have opted for a wider view like a stage play; it allows each aspect to be examined, the competitors as well as the spectators…I liken it to an opera where I want to see the performance as well as the diva.”
One stunning example is his image entitled “Alpe d’Huez, Tour de France 2013.” To celebrate the 100th edition of the Tour, riders had to ascend the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb twice on the same day for the first time in the Tour’s history. Helped by luck and timing, Pellizzari was able to capture the top riders — including Chris Froome in the leader’s yellow jersey — racing downhill through hairpin turns that were closed to the public before the second climb. Hence, there are absolutely no spectators anywhere on the mountain. So for a race that’s world famous for attracting huge, overly enthusiastic roadside crowds, this picture has historical importance. Also remarkable is the extra wide view of the mountain that you can savor, a perspective you won’t find by watching the race on TV.
The photographer reminds us, with his image entitled “Mickey Mouse, Tour de France 2013,” that the Tour isn’t just about racing up or down mountains. Here, Pellizzari captures the irony and humor of a giant Mickey seemingly
alone in the countryside. “I liked him waving at nothing,” he says. The backstory (no pun intended) is that there’s a long tradition of having a parade of vehicles with advertising messages precede every stage of the race; the artist positioned his camera behind the caravan to get this smile-inducing picture.
Pellizzari once said, “The idea of the all-in-one photograph is what fascinates me” and his image of middle-distance runner David Rudisha at the 2012 London Olympics is certainly proof.
He photographed Rudisha moments after he had finished the 800-meter event in record-breaking time, becoming the world record holder and Olympic Gold medal winner. Pellizzari likens this event to a circus since there is so much happening within the panoramic frame. We see Rudisha with his arms outstretched in a victory pose, an official sitting nearby, the crowd of photographers and other media people in front, with the clock showing his record-breaking time in the foreground, as well as the entire stage where this event took place — the crowd-filled stadium.
In sports photography, timing is critical, and very evident in the image “Freestyle Skiing, Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.” Here, skier Veronika Korsunova is caught in mid-air just as she is about to land on the slope. Luck also played a role in getting the shot, as it does in many of Pellizzari’s pictures. He takes more than one picture of an event and has to advance the film for each shot.
In another Olympic picture, “Ice hockey, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games,” Sidney Crosby and his Canadian teammates are shown emerging from the locker room to skate on to the ice. Pellizzari succeeded in getting the image of Crosby, who went on to score the winning goal of the final game, thereby clinching the gold medal for the Canadians. He says, “Without Crosby, the picture wouldn’t be as important. If I missed this, the whole day was gone.”
After viewing the 12 images in this exhibition (five of them involve cycling), I think of Pellizzari’s work as the wide, wide world of sports. By offering another perspective to events that are generally well covered in the media, the photographer adds another layer of understanding to them and maybe even a wow or two.
Given the photographer’s oeuvre, which includes his books, “La France Du Tour” and “Tours of the World,” it’s no surprise to learn that he’s back in France somewhere along the route of the 2015 Tour (which began July 4) and taking the wider view.
Paolo Pellizzari’s “Sport” is on view through Aug. 31 at Anastasia Photo (143 Ludlow St. btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.). Hours: Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Call 212-677-9725 or visit anastasia-photo.com. For info on this article’s author, visit normanbordenphoto.com.