February 17, 2014

Sochi is Boring

With regrets to official sponsors @CocaCola, @Dow, @McDonalds, @P&G, @Omega, @Samsun, @VISA, @GE and @Panasonic, too, Sochi is boring. It’s not just that the photos from Sochi fail to send off sparks. It’s that it’s now hard to get up to keep looking. Apparently, I’m not the only one picking up on this (1 ,2 , 3, 4 ).


It didn’t really crystallize until I saw this Sochi slideshow at PhotoBooth. Taken by Misha Friedman, the photos are set at one of those fan zones where people interact with pictures, backdrops, games, gizmos and flashing lights, all that. Most of the photos are just cute enough not to seem too daft. What rings through though, as the public engages with the marketing, is the incongruity. …Maybe the Olympics could still work as funny wallpaper?

What it actually reminds me of are Christopher Anderson’s photos from the most recent Republican and Democratic conventions. Anderson just went in there and photographed what it was: people contorting (or contorted) to identify with a supposedly sacrosanct cultural (but really, media) event, transparently manufactured. (Not that the Olympics aren’t a hallowed institution, by the way, but so were college athletics before the Sports-Industrial Complex ate them.)

7 dnc anderson

This year, the Olympics don’t quality (visually at least, but it can be generalized, I imagine) as spectacle or even ritual. But try routine. If Friedman’s pictures are effective at exposing the product, the title of the PhotoBooth post, “The Sochi Olympics County Fair,” is perfect.

The photographer who really seemed to capture the political flavor of Sochi and the preparation for the games is Mikhail Mordasov. I saw a very good pre-Games edit at LensCulture. Thus, what caught my eye was this Mordasov slideshow at Foreign Policy. If some of the photos are redundant, most interesting are the few captured since the Games began.

Mordasov sochi 100daysfp

This is a case in point. With the drama of the aerial skier in the center at ant scale, the Games as vivid as the visibility, the wide angle almost asks: there must be more happening than this.

(photo 1 & 2: Misha Friedman for The New Yorker. photo 3: Christopher Anderson for New York Magazine photo 4: Mikhail Mordasov caption: A sportsman competes during a freestyle skiing and snowboarding event held in Rosa Khutor before the opening of the games. Rosa Khutor is hosting all the alpine skiing events at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Russia has invested billions in the resort, which is just 30 miles away from Sochi.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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