Historical Social Research

Markus Stauff: The Assertive Image: Referentiality and Reflexivity in Sports Photography. [Abstract]

Contrary to other social practices, sports organize competitions on a publicly visible stage, where they are supposed to have an immediately recognizable and definite result. Embedded into this results-oriented and emphatically visual culture of sports, individual images often turn into what can be called assertive images, which are explicitly addressed as images and commented upon in order to admire performances and understand them. This article will use photographs from the time before television started to be the dominant medium – from the 1930s to 1960s – to outline four recurrent procedures which contribute to such assertiveness. The approach, which is more systematic than historical, aims at developing key questions, terms, and concepts for more detailed case studies. The more general claim is that media have not only been a means to represent sports, but sport has also functioned as a stage to display the qualities of media.

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