Personal Work: Focus - The World's Elite Divers

Those of you who know me, or just follow my Instagram feed, might know that I've taken up diving recently.  I've been taking lessons at the newly opened London Aquatic Centre which is also where the British diving team are now based. Even during my short time in diving I have learnt that so much of the sport is psychological; not just the unease when you look down at the pool from the higher platforms for the first time, but the focus and concentration needed to execute a dive perfectly. There are other sports that you might notice when watching on television the way that an athlete might stand focusing, or visualise the course they are about to take.

I starting bringing together ideas for a project involving the divers, when I learnt that FINA (International Swimming Federation) would be holding one of their World Series events in London. After a couple of phone calls and emails to their press department in Geneva I managed to obtain accreditation as a photographer to the event. I had higher ambitions than to photograph the event as a press photographer, I would have loved to arrange an area to take portraits in pre or post event, however I knew this wouldn't be possible. 

There are several photographers whose work I have cherished for some time which became really relevant to my thinking of how to shoot the divers. These included Rineke Dijkstra, Braschler & Fischer, Tim Kolln and Spencer Murphy. The photographers made portraits, taken immediately after they had come out of the field of play, be it the bullring, the football pitch, the bike or the racecourse. In all of the portraits you can see the tension of the sport still in the eyes and face of the athletes, though they can now relax as they have finished the event they still all seem on edge, exhausted, relieved.

Fortunately there was some freedom of movement for photographers around the diving pool during the event, I managed to position myself right next to the plunge pool. I was far closer than I thought I would be to the athletes and was one of the only photographers in the area as it wasn't a great spot to shoot the action from. This the ideal set-up for me as this area was where each diver would return to once out of the pool. Between dives they would speak to their coach, stretch and start to visualise their next dive. I tried to follow the patterns of each athlete as they would go to a different side of the pool, face a different way or speak to their coach. In a diving competition each competitor must perform 6 dives (5 for women) which are scored individually and combined for their total score. The pressure is immense, as any tiny mistake in the execution of the dive will result in dropped points.

What I wanted to capture was the focus and concentration held by each athlete as they prepared their mind for the next dive. 

With thanks to:

Viktoria Dijakovic,  FINA

Gemma Field, British Swimming

All the competitors and their coaches