Putting These Epic Sports Photos in Perspective

Cyclists compete in the Tour of Qinghai Lake, an annual professional road race held in one of the highest altitudes in the world. Qinghai province, China, 2003. 

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.

Paolo Pellizzari doesn’t make images like other sports photographers.

Rather than strive to get as close as possible to the action and freeze athletes in the middle of a spectacular moment, he tries to capture a fuller scene that gives viewers a better sense of what it feels like to be at an event. He calls his photos “human landscapes.”

“Maybe I lose a bit of precision in terms of what’s going on at the event, but I gain in terms of historic data and emotion,” he said.

Press boats flock Ben Ainslie’s boat after winning gold in the Olympic Finn Class; he was the first to win medals in sailing in five different Olympics consecutively from 1996–2012. Dorset, England, 2012.

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.

Kenyan middle-distance runner David Rudisha moments after finishing the 800-meter in 1:40:91, becoming the world-record holder and Olympic champion. London, England, 2012.

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.

To make these photos, he shoots panoramas using a Noblex camera, which is more commonly used to photograph static scenes. Its wide perspective captures close to what the human eye naturally sees when it views a landscape. Pellizzari’s equipment is not the only factor that makes his images unique; it’s also the position from which he makes them. When he can, he shoots away from where all other photographers are standing. The end result, Pellizzari says, is something that looks like what one might capture at a theatrical performance.

“The whole thing really has several dimensions, which makes it complicated because you have a lot of elements at the same time. When it works it has all the magic of looking at an opera,” he said.

The first major sporting event he photographed was the Tour de France. He enjoyed the experience so much he decided to photograph cycling races around the globe, which eventually made up his 2004 book, Tours of the World. Since then, he’s photographed a variety of sports from golf to motocross. These days, his subjects are varied. Recently, he photographed a historical re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo. This month, he will once again photograph the Tour de France. Next year, he’ll photograph the Olympics in Brazil.

Sidney Crosby and teammates skate onto the ice in the Men’s Hockey Finals during the Vancouver Olympics. Crosby would go on to score the winning goal of the game, cinching the gold medal title for the team. Vancouver, Canada, 2010.

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.

Celebrating the 100th Tour de France, athletes ascended the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb twice in a row for the first time. Here, cyclists navigate downhill through infamous hairpin turns, which were closed to the public before the second climb. Huez, France, 2013.

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.

“To me, being at a cycling race and being at the Vatican where people are seeing the pope or being at a music festival is almost the same thing. I like the architecture of people. It’s interesting to see how a crowd behaves because you always have particularities in the people and the way they position themselves. You always have funny stories and that’s what makes the picture,” he said.

Pellizzari’s photographs is on display in the exhibition “Sport” at New York City’s Anastasia Photo until Aug. 31. 

Cyclist competing in the Tour of Eritrea, a 700-mile race in ten stages. Cyclists cover multiple climates including temperate highlands, hot desert, and windy coastline. Eritrea, 2004.

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.

“L’Enduro du Touquet,” formerly a three-hour race over the sand dunes of Le Touquet. The race ran there from 1975–2005 before relocating for ecological reasons. Le Touquet, France, 2005.

Paolo Pellizzari, Courtesy Anastasia Photo.