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Gary Osmond, "Photographs, Materiality, and Sport History: Peter Norman and the 1968 Mexico City Black Power Salute.

Gary Osmond, "Photographs, Materiality, and Sport History: Peter Norman and the 1968 Mexico City Black Power Salute," Journal of Sport History 37, no. 1 (2010), 119-137.

In this article, Gary Osmond revisits the iconic photograph of the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners in the 200 meter sprint at the 1968 Olympic Summer Games. Specifically, Osmond examines the materiality of the photograph in discussing Peter Norman, the Australian silver medal winner, who, so OSmond argues, was "at different times, and in varying ways, both obscured and emphasized" (119).

Osmond argues that the manipulation of photographs by means of computer image editing software, or changes in the presentational context, alter the message of the photograph. Thus the manipulation of Norman in the 1968 photograph causes him to be as "important for being cut out of the scene as he is for being included" (122).

Osmond elaborates his argument by using Catherine Lutz's and Jane Collins' "magazine's gaze" theory. The theory aims to explain how a "photographer's perspective" is changed and manipulated when the photo is used in news print. The "magazine gaze" thus focusses on a photo's caption, positioning, and the accompanying text. This is important because images themselves "seldom tell us much about causes or effects without a narrated script" (125).

Osmond applies the "magazine's gaze" approach to explain the specifics of Norman's appearance in both American and Australian newspapers. Ultimately, Osmond argues, Norman got much more coverage in the Australian press than he did in the United States. In some instances, Norman was completely removed from the photo when reprinted in American papers and was a mere afterthought in the accompanying text, both in caption and story. However, in Australian newspapers, Norman was kept in reprints of the photograph, included in headlines, and often identifed as a "civil rights supporter" (126) in the text of the story. Osmond's use of the "magazine's gaze" theory usefully explains this rift in media coverage between two nations intertwined by a common story.

By the early 1990, "media interest in Norman began to grow in the U.S." (129). The causes of this upswing remain unclear, but Osmond relates it to a "search for new perspectives on what was undeniably recognized as a significant and famous moment and artifact" (129). Perhaps the "magazine's gaze" approach could also have furnised an explanation: the lack of representational coverage of Norman in the United States left the door open for a reawakening of interest some forty years later.

Overall, Osmond's piece provides a useful sampling of the potential for further research into Norman's mediatic importance. In terms of studies involving the 1968 photograph, Osmond states that a "more thorough exploration of its material life would yield other examples and suggest other uses and meanings" (133). In this refreshing article that accurately chronicles and analyzes the famous moment in the career of an otherwise largely forgotten athlete, Osmond has made a good beginning.

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Article Details
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Author:Congelio, Brad
Publication:Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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