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Response to Rowe: “Framed and Mounted: Sport Through the Photographic Eye”

Today’s reading covered the realm of action sports photography. Chapter 6 of David Rowe’s Sport, Culture, and Media discusses the subjectivity of photography at first, then delves into the differences portraying sportsmen and sportswomen. Let’s examine the former first.

Cropping for effect

How a photo's meaning can be changed by cropping.
How a photo’s meaning can be changed by cropping.

Rowe points out that any picture can have it’s meaning changed just by taking away information from the audience. “Photographs attain meaning only in relation to the settings in which they are encountered.” Just like in regular journalism, you can manipulate the truth in photojournalism by omitting facts or playing with the size, positioning, or captions in the photo. Rowe also says that we as individuals see meaning in photos in regards to our own personal circumstances. “When looking at a sports photograph, our response to an image of a despondent athlete will be largely conditioned by our relationship to them,” since viewers are the ones who give photos their meaning.


The great gender divide in sports photography

Take a look at the two pictures I featured at the start of this article. In the men’s tennis shot, you see an action shot, and the women’s tennis ad is obviously more passive. Rowe shares a study from 1979 about Sports Illustrated that shows that “60 percent of all photographs of sportswomen showed them in ‘passive, non-athletic roles’ compared with only 44 percent of all photographs of sportsmen,” and I chose those two pictures to illustrate this point. In general, women in sports always seem to be objectified and passive, as if they don’t matter as much as men. In contrast, men’s sports always seems to be a serious  matter, and men are usually shown to be active participants.

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