Sometimes It’s Hard to be Different


The other day in China I watched athletes prepare for the Beijing Olympic games, and I thought about how difficult it is to get unique photographs at these highly documented events.

For the 2000 Sydney games, I was contracted by Kodak to be their photographer. I realized I would have to do something different, because I’m not a sports photographer and I knew that 1,500 other photographers would be there to capture the events and ceremonies.

I ultimately decided to focus on the people who rarely get recognition at these events — the officials, trainers, entertainers, tradespeople, and the volunteer staff from the suburbs of Sydney. Without these people working behind the scenes, the Sydney Olympics would never have been the success that they were. My series of portraits was a light-hearted look at the circus that is the Olympic Games.

My assistant and I spent weeks talking to, meeting with, setting up and shooting pictures of a wide selection of the population of Sydney. The subjects — who included the wife of a former Australian prime minister, the Lord Mayor, a ticket collector and a taxi driver — thought the idea was amusing and happily posed for us. They were part of the joke, and they participated in the shoot knowing exactly what I had in mind.

The white witch I photographed told us she had put a spell on the weather and that it would be perfect for the two weeks of the games. And guess what? It was.