Personal Best-Paul Floyd Blake at the Impressions Gallery Bradford

Exhibition Visit 22nd August

This was the first visit I’d made to the Impressions gallery and I was impressed by how light and airy the building was (as well as the selection of books in the shop) The exhibition itself was just in the one room but managed to comprise of a number of photographs charting athletes in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

At first, I wasn’t overly impressed just looking at these images, usually 4 per athlete but then you read the information and realise that it’s an image per year, and then I stood back to see the subtle changes in the subject over this time period. This was really enlightening to see young athletes grow into young adults and in some cases to see the tiredness and strain on their faces. In contrast to the images recently in the newspapers of all the medal success, this was very much a different look at the years of dedication and hard work, that in some cases isn’t realised as funding is withdrawn and the athlete has to make the difficult decision to stop. Overall it portrays a sense of the sacrifice that hundreds of people make to get to the successful medal winning stage as that’s not always obvious in the media.

Looking at the portraits, these are not just faces of the athletes but they are carefully composed to show their sport whether it’s in the background such as sitting by a swimming pool, or in their dress such as judo, the sport it there but it’s the person that’s at the forefront and what the viewer is interested in primarily.

One of the images of Rosie Bancroft won the 2009 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and was the first time I’d seen a winner of this award so that was really beneficial to get an idea of the type of image and composition that can win accolades.

For me this was thought provoking, more for the subject matter than anything else, I like a more realistic and gritty portrait and this shows both the emotion in the subjects but also conveys it to the viewer so we get an insight to a life most of us will never know, and an honest portrayal of sport funding that again is not highly publicised. On the flip side I would have liked more information with the images; I want to know what Floyd-Blake thought and saw as these people changed over the course of 4 or more years.

ig1 Rosie Bancroft (Swimming) 2008

ig2 Robert Jeffries (Kayaking) 2007

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