row2k Features
Behind the Photo: Photographing Disappointment
September 18, 2020
Oli Rosenbladt, row2k

SUI LW2x at the Final Olympic Qualifier in Lucerne, 2016

One of the great challenges or downsides of being a sports photographer is that, while you definitely get ample opportunities to photograph folks of every age, gender and ability at their highest points, you also see athletes at their lowest in front of your lens as well.

Some of these lows are lower than others. The photo above is of the Swiss LW2x of Frederique Rol and Patricia Merz, moments after the final at the Final Olympic Qualification regatta at Lucerne in 2016. The crew finished 5th, but only the top 2 crews would earn a berth in the Rio Olympics.

What made this photo poignant for me is that, just that morning, the local paper had run an extensive feature on the crew, and their desire to represent Switzerland in Rio. By lunchtime, that dream was dead, and stroke seat Patricia Merz's anguish at having failed to realize her goals, as friends and family members shouted encouragement and consolation from the stands as the crew rowed past back up to the launch dock, was obvious.

There were many other disappointed athletes that day for sure. With the status of the Olympics within the rowing calendar, the sheer level of focus and achievement required, and the sacrifices that athletes often make to commit to training for an Olympic cycle, the visible emotions for those athletes that fall short can be tough.

Sam Stitt and Warren Anderson at the 2012 FOQR
Sam Stitt and Warren Anderson at the 2012 FOQR

Across the board, whether it's taking photos at IRA or NCAA, Henley, Youth Nationals, or the elite events that often have more athletes on the water than spectators on land, like the Olympic trials, we see the full range of human emotion on display, and as former athletes ourselves, it can sometimes be tough to watch.

As row2k photographers, we don't set out to show folks at their worst moments (indeed, oftentimes, during the crush of a regatta, we're covering the whole event on instinct, taking photos that will tell the whole story.) Only afterwards, during the process of sorting the pictures for publication, do we have an opportunity to reflect on what went down. In posting what we post in our galleries, (mostly) without holding back, our interest is in the full tapestry of the sport, or as ABC Sports used to say, "From the thrill of Victory, to the Agony of Defeat."

Disappointment at Henley also bites deeply
Disappointment at Henley also bites deeply

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