Tod Papageorge: American Sports, 1970

Overview

Coolly observational yet intensely engaging, the immensely influential American photographer Tod Papageorge's American Sports, 1970 draws a subtle but sharp parallel between the war in Vietnam and the American attitude toward spectator sports during a time of conflict. In 1970, a watershed year for popular opinion against the war, Papageorge was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation grant. His ostensible subject--sports and its role in American life--quickly became charged with the political, racial and sexual ...
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Overview

Coolly observational yet intensely engaging, the immensely influential American photographer Tod Papageorge's American Sports, 1970 draws a subtle but sharp parallel between the war in Vietnam and the American attitude toward spectator sports during a time of conflict. In 1970, a watershed year for popular opinion against the war, Papageorge was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation grant. His ostensible subject--sports and its role in American life--quickly became charged with the political, racial and sexual conflicts ignited by the war. Each and every picture is electric with disquiet. Military men in uniform parade across a field or relax in the stands. Cheerleaders rehearse beneath the gaze of the police. A couple sprawls and embraces in the debris of the Indianapolis 500. And hundreds of fans are drawn in unsettling group portraits at various stadiums and in the stands of many classic American sporting events.
Papageorge eloquently and palpably captures the civic and psychic distress of the time on the faces of his subjects and in their gestures and interactions. This is a remarkable, unexpected body of work--published here for the first time--by an artist and teacher who has shaped the creative efforts of many of the most influential American photographers of the past three decades.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

On his 1970 Guggenheim Fellowship, Papageorge sought "to document as clearly and as completely as possible the phenomena of professional sport in America." To Papageorge, the "theater of spectator and sport is comprised of a thousand brief acts." This collection mostly shows audiences taking in America's greatest pastimes-baseball and football-on campuses and in professional parks throughout 1970, the year that 4,221 American troops died in the Vietnam War and four students were killed at Kent State University. This politically tense year in American history is captured from the sidelines in photographs with formal elegance and hilarious happenstance that reveal the country's escapist tendencies. In one image, competing newspaper headlines say it all: "Baltimore Wins First One" leads the Cincinnati Post, whereas the Kentucky Postreports on a "Secret attempt to buy city hall," suggesting radically different ideas of what is worth noticing and reporting. Many of Papageorge's photos reveal people either intensely watching or paying no attention whatsoever, but it is Papageorge who invites us to look and look closely at a majorette's baton, lines that separate spectators from police and the head of a veteran's memorial that nearly vanishes into a tree. The results are utterly absorbing and seamless in their poetry. 70 b&w photos. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Barnes & Noble Review
In this collection of arresting large-plate photographs by the Yale photography professor and MoMA curator Tod Papageorge, one cannot escape the association of sports as staged conflict. As Davis quotes Papageorge in his essay, "I really had no particular 'feeling' for what I was photographing beyond needing to set it down into rattlingly dense pictures whose design might both incorporate the social madness of the moment and suggest art's perennial solution, perfect form." And they succeed. The wide-angled shots often portray emotionally invested spectators straining to watch others in uniforms -- athletes, cheerleaders, mascots, marching band members, concession vendors, police officers, Boy Scouts -- act out their designated roles. Decades later all the racial, sexual, and class tensions of the Vietnam War period still emanate beyond these selected snaps of leisure. There is an inevitable us-versus-them quality to every image, and the contrasts of foreground/background invite repeated study. In his essay, poet and photographer Tim Davis ascribes a Dante's Inferno aspect to these photos that, while intellectually intriguing, feels artificially overwrought. Papageorge's work doesn't need any boost from high-culture references to engage a viewer. The power of these unsettling images is intrinsic: they may have been casually shot with a handheld camera, but the ones included here inevitably have powerful geometries that move the eye through several simultaneous dramas: one cluster of spectators may be riveted by whatever is happening to the left, while on the middle right of the same shot a man is straining to tongue his date. Atheletes may be at ease in their dugout while oblivious spectators look past them from the bleachers overhead. It is these visual juxtapositions that pack a punch -- right to any thinking American's heart. --Victoria C. Rowan
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597110501
  • Publisher: Aperture Foundation
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Pages: 132
  • Product dimensions: 12.00 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tod Papageorge, born in 1940 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, earned his BA in English literature from the University of New Hampshire in 1962, where he began taking photographs during his last semester. Often compared to Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank, and grouped with major figures of 70s photography like Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, he is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. In 1979, Papageorge was named Yale University's Walker Evans Professor of Photography and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography, positions he continues to hold today.
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