American Sports, 1970, or, How We Spent the War in Vietnam

Tod Papageorge, Photographer , essay by Tim Davis. Aperture $50 (131p) ISBN 978-1-597-11050-1

On his 1970 Guggenheim Fellowship, Papageorge sought “to document as clearly and as completely as possible the phenomena of professional sport in America.” To Papageorge, the “theater of spectator and sport is comprised of a thousand brief acts.” This collection mostly shows audiences taking in America's greatest pastimes—baseball and football—on campuses and in professional parks throughout 1970, the year that 4,221 American troops died in the Vietnam War and four students were killed at Kent State University. This politically tense year in American history is captured from the sidelines in photographs with formal elegance and hilarious happenstance that reveal the country's escapist tendencies. In one image, competing newspaper headlines say it all: “Baltimore Wins First One” leads the Cincinnati Post , whereas the Kentucky Post reports on a “Secret attempt to buy city hall,” suggesting radically different ideas of what is worth noticing and reporting. Many of Papageorge's photos reveal people either intensely watching or paying no attention whatsoever, but it is Papageorge who invites us to look and look closely at a majorette's baton, lines that separate spectators from police and the head of a veteran's memorial that nearly vanishes into a tree. The results are utterly absorbing and seamless in their poetry. 70 b&w photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
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