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Ready for Greatness

31/07/2012 Kate Peters and her trusty Hasselblad have just completed a marathon project to photograph an impressive line up of Olympic hopefuls for a huge spread in The Guardian’s Weekend supplement.

There are commissions that are simply part of the daily routine and then there are those that are so hugely involving and exciting that they have the potential to be life changing.

The job that came through from The Guardian for freelance editorial photographer Kate Peters most definitely fell into the latter category, and it required her to catch up with dozens of Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls just as they started their final preparations for the Games.

“It really was an incredible commission to receive,” says Kate, “particularly since I’d only done a couple of jobs for the magazine prior to this.

It came through in November last year and the idea was to photograph a wide range of athletes from a number of different disciplines and to set each shoot up in a coordinated way so that the images could be spliced together and would show the comparative body sizes and height that existed between the various athletes.

“In order to do this I had to keep everything completely consistent, from camera, lens and lighting through to the distance from me to the subject, and so once I’d set up the first portrait I had to take a lot of measurements and then make sure that I repeated that exact set up every time from then on.

“I ended up working with a Hasselblad H4D-40 and 80mm and a lighting set up that consisted of an Octa box, a strip and a snoot and that was pretty much it.

It was actually the first time that I had worked with a digital camera as opposed to my regular Hasselblad 503CW, and I made the switch because otherwise there would have been so many images to scan in at the end of it all and there was also a need for some of the shots to be approved on the spot.

I’m still very much someone who loves the look and feel of film, however, and now the project is completed I’m back with my regular kit.”

At the completion of the project the pictures ran over ten double page spreads in The Guardian’s Weekend supplement and the power of the set came from the continuity between the images.

“They all looked like shots taken at the same time in the studio,” says Kate, “but in fact they were taken all over the place because they had to tie in with when an athlete might be available.

Often I would just get an email the night before telling me where I needed to be the next day, and I would have to scroll down to find out who it was that I would be photographing!

“It was a great challenge, however, and I ended up working in all kinds of weird and wonderful places, from gymnasiums through to corridors at the Manchester Velodrome for the shot of Sir Chris Hoy, while some of the athletes were able to come into the studio.

Wherever I happened to be working I still needed to make all of the pictures look as though they had been shot under the same conditions.”

While the culmination of the project was the publication of the pictures in print, there are plans afoot for the shots to be used in an exhibition and book, and Kate has also seized the opportunity for a truly unique piece of self-promotion.

“I’m having the shots made into a fold out poster,” she says, “which will allow me to show future clients the whole set of pictures together.”

Impressive stuff, and whatever happens over these next few weeks Kate has certainly come out of this whole process as a definite winner!




Sir Chris Hoy
Photo: Kate Peters/INSTITUTE for Guardian 

This shot of Sir Chris Hoy had to be taken on location while he was competing at the Manchester Velodrome. “None of the rooms at this venue had high enough ceilings for us to work,” says Kate, “so we ended up setting the picture up in a convenient corridor!”


Mo Farah
Photo: Kate Peters/INSTITUTE for Guardian 

This portrait of Mo Farah illustrates the challenges that this project threw up. “I had to photograph Mo while he was also working on an ad shoot in the next studio,” says Kate. “I was given precisely 12 minutes to take my picture and so had to work extremely fast, and the moment that time was up he was off again.”


Richard Whitehead
Photo: Kate Peters/INSTITUTE for Guardian 

Richard Whitehead, the 200m Paralympic World Record Holder, was photographed wearing the carbon fibre springs he uses when running. “When you’re wearing these it’s impossible to keep still,” says Kate, “and so he constantly had to keep shifting from one leg to the other. I just needed to anticipate when he was going to move and time my shot accordingly.”