Personal Best Paul Floyd Blake: Review by Hayley Sargent

As part of Paul Floyd Blake’s exhibition “Personal Best” Arts in Yorkshire proposed to make a short film about his work and the young athletes he spent 5 years photographing. New Focus were asked to collaborate and have a major role in the planning and directorial elements of the film, which was our first project as the young persons advisory board of the Impressions Gallery.

We wanted the main focus to be on the young athletes and their story and so as well as arranging a day to film the photographer wewanted to watch one of his athletes in action.

The Kayaker Robert Jefferies was not only the closest candidate but also one whose series of photos show the most change. His series is compelling and show the transformation from adolescence to adulthood. On that day looking into the sky praying for the rain to hold off and thinking, “I’ve never really been interested in sport” I was apprehensive to interview a 19 year old Kayaker at the side of a Canal in Mirfield. But as soon as he got into the water, we were all stunned and in awe of his beautiful skill.

Robert had changed my image of Sport as being something quite brutal and made it quiet and graceful as he glided through the water. What we usually see in the media are photographs of heroes all sweaty and triumphant when really nothing has been documented of the enormous struggle of getting there. Paul Floyd Blake’s series isn’t about heroism or who got into the Olympics, even though all of those athletes were striving for that goal. It was about struggle, patience and most of all determination. During the interview Robert was so mature and reserved, you can see the sense of purpose in his face, a common trait between those athletes Paul Floyd Blake photographed.

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