See the Glory of the Olympics Captured in David Burnett’s Photos

He's been shooting the Games since 1984.

David Burnett, Platform diving, women, Barcelona, Spain, August 1992, Fu Mingxia (gold). Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.
David Burnett, Platform diving, women, Barcelona, Spain, August 1992, Fu Mingxia (gold). Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

Olympic athletes, with their incredible feats of strength, speed, and general physiques, are captivating in action. Photographer David Burnett, whose work is the subject of “Man Without Gravity,” an exhibition at New York’s Anastasia Photo, has been charged with capturing that magic at every summer games since 1984.

It was at those games, in Los Angeles, that Burnett began to focus on athletes in motion. Rather than waiting with the other photographers at the finish line of the women’s 3,000-meter race, Burnett found a seat along the track. There, he was uniquely-positioned to capture the dramatic fall of American track star Mary Decker in her showdown with the UK’s Zola Budd, who ran barefoot.

David Burnett, Platform diving, Men, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 1996. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

David Burnett, Platform diving, Men, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 1996. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

“It’s about being lucky and not screwing up, and trying to be ready for some moment if you happen to be the right place,” Burnett told the New York Times in 2012.

Since taking those career-making images, Burnett has become a fixture at the games, from the Winter Games in 2002, in Salt Lake City, and again in 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

His images are taken from the vantage point of the crowd, as if he were just another fan enjoying the competition. “I have the luxury of never having been the photographer who was relied upon to get the winner in that victorious pose,” Burnett explained in a statement, noting that like much of the audience, he rarely sees these sports outside of an Olympic year.

“My mission, I feel, is to study the sport, the motion, the players and to get pictures that spectators may never witness by simply sitting there observing the games,” Burnett added.

See more photos from the exhibition below.

David Burnett, Field Hockey, women, Beijing, China, August 2008. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

David Burnett, Field Hockey, women, Beijing, China, August 2008. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

David Burnett, Ski Jump, Park City, Utah, USA, February 2002. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

David Burnett, Ski Jump, Park City, Utah, USA, February 2002. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

David Burnett, Synchronized Swimming, Seoul, South Korea, September 1988. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

David Burnett, Synchronized Swimming, Seoul, South Korea, September 1988. Courtesy of David Burnett/Anastasia Photo/Contact Press Images.

“David Burnett: Man Without Gravity” is on view at Anastasia Photo, 143 Ludlow Street, New York, June 7–September 25, 2016.


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