Olympic Boxer Ron Cooper. Photographer Joseph Turp
The “Austerity Games” by Photographer Joseph Turp, shows the faces of London’s 1948 Olympics. It’s about history, storytelling, and a celebration of Ageing
“I’m a living legend”, said charismatic Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt after becoming the first man to successfully defend the 100m and 200m titles. The idea of the “Legend” is one of the ideas explored by photographer Joseph Turp in his project Austerity Games.Turp, who also shoots for Image Source, took portraits of the athletes competing in the 1948 London games, just after the Second World War, when many goods in Britain were still rationed. Sponsorship, full-time coaches, and even an Olympic Village were ideas that were as imaginable as a human being running 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters (10.2 in 1948).
So hurdler Joe Birrell is shown alongside an image of his vest, with the Olympics’ crest sewn on by his mother.
And while the £27 million 2012 ceremony directed by Danny Boyle charmed millions around the world, Turp shows an image of rower Paul Bircher alongside a feather he holds in his hand, from a pigeon released in the opening ceremony. It seems even mementos were salvage rather than expensively branded items.
The word “legend”, a word whose meaning is “legendary” (!), especially during the amped-up media coverage of this Olympic Games, but one of its original meanings was the inscription on a coin. Turp shows a portrait of High Jump silver-medal winner Dorothy Tyler alongside an image of her holding her medal. Her face, lined and chiseled, mirrors the “legend”, the imprint on the medal, a noble geography of sporting achievement, and yes, heroism.
The portraiture of Turp’s Austerity Games project isn’t just a statuesque take on sporting legend, it’s an understated piece of storytelling, in the pairing of the face and the objects which each subject shows. A visual testament. Turp’s thought-provoking contrasts, and his picturing of the passing of time shown in the humility and pride of these faces, brings a fresh take on the deep meaning of “Olympian”. Most of all, in a world which likes its legends to be smooth and young, it’s a celebration of the vitality Ageing and the faces who are rich with the lines of hard-won stories.
Click to see more of Joseph Turp’s Austerity Games