Old-Timey Olympians Show How Things Have Changed | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Old-Timey Olympians Show How Things Have Changed

Clendenin's photos evoke the feeling that for all the changes seen by the modern Olympic games, the athletes themselves could easily be transposed across time.

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Photo: The Boston Athletic Association

In the 1896 Olympics, Thomas Burke ran the 100 meter sprint in 12 seconds. More than a century’s worth of technological and training improvements pushed that time down to 9.69 seconds, ran by Usain Bolt in 2008 in Beijing. CNN has an interactive infographic showing how over the past 116 years Olympians have been running faster, throwing further, and jumping higher.

Giving those evolving records an interesting bit of artistic context, the Los Angeles times’ Jay Clendenin put together a then-and-now style photo collection of some of America’s 2012 Olympians.  Clendenin says,

For nearly four weeks in June and July, I drove around Southern California – with a quick jaunt to the Phoenix area – shooting portraits of athletes who would be competing in the 2012 London Olympics. I photographed them not only in color with my digital SLR cameras, but also in black and white, using a 4-by-5-inch field camera and a 100-plus-year-old Petzval lens. Each black-and-white portrait was exposed onto black-and-white photographic paper, processed in a darkroom and scanned into a computer.

By simply stepping down his technology, many of Clendenin photos evoke the feeling that for all the changes seen by the modern Olympic games, the athletes themselves could easily be transposed across time.

 

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Men Behind the First Olympic Team

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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