Trips: Chris Lanaway: Documenting Elite Athletes in a Pandemic Stories

Covid 19 has had a significant impact on sport and athletes, many have had their seasons cut short or not even start at all because of restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. My work has seen me photograph and work with some of the biggest athletes in the world and as a result I have come to understand the mental load that bears on many athletes, I find the mental aspect of sport and athletes is often overlooked. The pandemic has had a negative impact on many people’s mental health as they live with uncertainty around their work, the economy and their own health and wellbeing.

As humans we thrive on ambition and the competitive nature of sport is known to boost mental health and well being, this led me to come up with the concept behind this project. With so many athletes having to deal with the negative impacts of training in the hopes of competitive sport resuming in 2020 and many regular people turning to exercise to help get through lockdowns and the negative effects of the pandemic, I wanted to create a body of work which could inspire everyone from those taking up exercise or sport for the first time, to regularly competitive amateurs, right up to professional athletes.

My work involves a lot of travel around Europe so like many others I saw many jobs and shoots cancelled in quick succession as the pandemic developed, I soon found myself with a considerable amount of free time. Living in Sweden we weren’t placed in lockdown and instead had heavy restrictions in place to manage the spread, this allowed me some freedom to still create this project despite the situation. The pandemic had slowed the world down and so it felt right to work with my Intrepid 4x5 MK4 to create this project. Working with professional and elite athletes based in my city along with a personal trainer who regularly works with elite and professional athletes, I captured portraits of them in various locations as they came to terms with the ever changing situation.

The Intrepid was the perfect camera for this, typically all of the people featured are used to high speed SLR cameras documenting them during competitions, with digital colour imagery that is turned around almost instantly. The Intrepid slowed everything down to a pace that for professional athletes is completely unfamiliar, taking just a few sheets of black and white film to each shoot I focussed on the interaction with the subject rather than speed of the shoot. I opted for black and white as I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to experiment more with Black and white film for shooting portraits, typically I always use colour but more recently I have been looking to experiment with black and white, this project felt like the ideal time to experiment and focus some time to refine my skill and knowledge in this area.

Captured during the first phase of lockdowns and restrictions that were put in place, I am so grateful to each person involved and their incredible generosity with their time!

Chris Lanaway | Instagram

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