By Umit Bektas
I have always wondered how athletes, who must exert incredible amounts of energy in whichever sports discipline they compete in, handle the issue of nutrition. As the London Olympics approached us, we Reuters photographers began to make our photo stories. I decided to create a photography project stemming from this curiosity of mine. I planned to interview some of the Turkish athletes preparing to compete in the Games and take pictures of what they ate. Sometimes you think a project that sounds good will also be easy to carry out and this is very exciting but when you actually become involved that euphoria is replaced by anxiety. This is exactly what happened to me.
The hardest part was to persuade the athletes to spare a few hours in the studio which meant taking a break from their exercise program. I wanted to take photos of six athletes but I was rejected by at least three times that number of other athletes. Some said they were training abroad, or in other cities. For others, their trainers rejected my request saying their charges would “lose their concentration”.
I had to get permission from the sports federation involved, then from the coaches or trainers of the athletes I wanted to photograph and finally from the athlete themselves.
I chose my six athletes and conducted interviews with them. I asked them how they solved the issue of nutrition and made a list of all that they ate during a day.
Field photographers like us are not involved much with studio photography so before the actual shoot, I asked a friend to act as a stand-in for the athletes and took some trial photos. If you are taking pictures for a cookery book, you can make all the digital photo adjustments you want later on your computer. As a field photographer I, of course, knew the rules of news photography I had to adhere to during post production therefore this step of running tests beforehand was important for me. It did indeed prove to be very useful and I believe the final results were all technically satisfactory.