American Sports, 1970
or, How We Spent the War in VietnamPhotographs by Tod Papageorge
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Coolly observational yet intensely engaging, American Sports, 1970 draws a subtle but sharp parallel between the war in Vietnam and the American attitude toward spectator sports during a time of conflict. In 1970, a watershed year for popular opinion against the war, Tod Papageorge was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation grant. His ostensible subject—sports and its role in American life—quickly became charged with the political, racial, and sexual conflicts ignited by the war. Picture after picture is electric with disquiet: military men in uniform parading on the field or relaxing in the stands; cheerleaders rehearsing under the eyes of police; a couple sprawled and embracing in the debris of the Indianapolis 500; and hundreds of fans, drawn in unsettling group portraits, at various stadiums and in the stands of many classic American sporting events. Papageorge eloquently captured the palpable civic and psychic distress of the time on the faces of his subjects and in their gestures and interactions. This is a remarkable, unexpected body of work—published here for the first time—by a photographer and teacher who has shaped the creative efforts of many of the most influential American photographers of the past three decades.
Tod Papageorge (born 1940, Portsmouth, New Hampshire) earned his BA in English literature from the University of New Hampshire, in 1962, where he began taking photographs during his last semester. He is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. In 1979 Papageorge was named Yale University’s Walker Evans Professor of Photography and director of graduate studies in photography, positions he continues to hold today.