Special Olympics 2023 - Region 10, Southwest Virginia
In April 2023, Special Olympics Region 10 held their annual Track and Field event in Bristol, Virginia. This event was only the second year back after COVID decimated the ranks of participants and their support structures.
For the last decade or more I have been photographing the events and the people - participants, volunteers, parents, and caregivers. This year I was asked to photograph the winners.
I decided that I would use film and keep it simple. One 4x5 view camera (a SINAR F2), a white seamless background, and a stool. I had flash gear, but Mother Nature assisted and gave me a beautiful overcast day. That was a good omen; I shot twenty-plus sheets of Ilford HP5 in 45 minutes. Anyone who has shot sheet film knows this to be a breakneck pace, but these winners were impatient.
In addition to appearing here, these twenty images will be the subject of a show to be held in March 2024 at the Bristol Public Library. I am making 20x24 silver gelatin prints on Ilford MG Art 300, and the kind folks at CDR Frame Shop & Art Gallery are handling the matting and framing.
A Few Words About Editing
In preparing this show I was adamant that the images would never touch a computer. There would be zero editing outside the darkroom until spotting was done with pens. I succeeded in this task, though not without great heartache. It took about 45 sheets of 20x24 paper to get the final 21 images, plus about 50 11x14 sheets as "test strips." At some point into the second box of 20x24 I accepted that this was what it was and I would do it right. This thought changed everything in the darkroom.
This evening editing the scans to post here I pondered how much easier it is to use the computer. To be sure, the images you see here are NOT the images that I printed in the darkroom. Yes, they derive from the same negatives, but they are less flawed in this form. Dust spots are one thing, but holes in the emulsion are quite another. Photoshop cares not, but the enlarger does.
This activity led me to ponder what makes a good image. This will ALWAYS be debated, but as a rule I think it is important to remember what's important is what is IN the photo, not what is NOT in it. And thus, I came to accept that there is likely no perfect image. So what.