To take the portrait of Tom Bosworth, British two time Olympic race walker who holds three World bests including the World Best for the 1Mile race walk, 5:31.08, as part of Portraits of Pride. He also holds six British records, won thirteen British Championships gold medals, a silver Commonwealth Games medal and is a World European Olympic Games finalist. Tom is currently ranked 1st overall in the UK for 20 km and is also the first openly gay track and field athlete having come out as gay on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show on 13 October 2015.
I was scheduled to take Tom’s portrait at Tonbridge School Centre (TSC) in Kent and had planned to complete the photography outside on the 400 metre track using it and other track and field elements as compositional elements to take a lifestyle portrait. As part of the evolvement of Portraits of Pride I have been aiming to move away from close up portraits to take wider images to include situational context relevant to the sport or current profession of the sportspeople involved. Unfortunately the elements conspired against Tom Bosworth and myself and the weather was damp and cold. While I had some thought for my lighting equipment my main concern was for Tom, who weighs in at 56kgs, despite his protestations that he would be fine; luckily the TSC allowed us use of the gym and the shoot went ahead the gym.
My previous experience of taking portraits of professional and elite sportspeople included the Sale Sharks, the Premiership Rugby team based in Manchester. The direction I gave was to each player was to close their eyes and consider what rugby meant to them and once they were happy with their memory or train of thought, to open their eyes at which stage I took three frames. The portraits with Tom were an extension of this; for each pose and lighting setup Tom recalled key moments from his career including remarkable records and crushing lows with his facial expression clearly showing his feelings and reactions to each. My main constraint for the portrait session was having Tom lead with his left shoulder and, in the main, look camera left. This was due to the location of the Team GB logo and Olympic rings on his left and the Union Flag on his left shoulder which I felt were important and wanted to include.
I would like to thank Tom for his emotional honesty in these portraits. I believe the intensity showed in them are representative of the commitment and drive to compete at the highest levels in a solo sport. I am, according to Tom, one of the few photographers who kept to the session deadline and finished on time.
Many thanks to Tom Bosworth for his time and patience and wish him good luck in his preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games to be held, at home, in Birmingham and Tonbridge School Centre for use of their facilities.