The art and artifice of early sports photography

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The rise of modern sport in the mid-nineteenth century coincided with the emergence of photography as a new image-making medium. Thus both practices developed in parallel. Notably, many early photographers turned to sport as a subject for their work, despite the early technological limitations of the medium. Histories of photography have, however, tended to overlook this. Similarly, sport historians have tended to regard these early photographs simply as illustrative material rather than important innovations in the formation of new visual conventions for the representation of sport. This paper seeks to redress this by exploring, in close detail, examples of sports photography produced in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. More importantly, it examines the visual vocabularies deployed by these early photographers within the context of contemporary art practices, demonstrating how artistry and artifice were deployed in the production of some of the earliest, and finest, examples of sports photography ever produced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-802
Number of pages18
JournalSport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics
Issue number5
Early online date18 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • Sport
  • Photography
  • Sports photography
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • St Andrews
  • Hill and Adamson
  • William Notman
  • Scotland


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