Women 100m Final. 20012 US Trials. Picture by Flash Results.
My current project is to research and write a ‘critical cultural history of the photo finish in sport’ and is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. By the late 1800s a rising number of photographers and sports enthusiasts were trumpeting the use of the camera to determine placing in athletic contests. Now, more than 100 years later and with continually advancing imaging and timing systems, the photo finish has become a mainstay in elite-level sport. My project traces the origins and development of the photo finish from the 19th century to the present and positions the photo finish as a unique cultural object. As my project stresses, images used as decision aids in sport are far more than juridical documents: they have both immediate and far-reaching impact. In the former, they serve as proof or evidence in sporting contests and thus have significant material implications both for individual and teams of athletes and for sports apparel corporations and sports entertainment and gambling industries. In the latter the images function across scientific, professional and lay communities in cultural debates on the limits and capabilities of human performance, the relationship of human and machine vision, and the subjective and objective status of visual representation.
My aim is to provide research that will be useful to scholars, sports professionals, media personnel, sports fans, and those interested in the intersection of technology and sport.