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Grants for the arts help develop portrait of young athletes in run up to London 2012

  • Date: 17 January 2011
  • Area: North
person in fencing outfit

Alex Craig 2009. Credit: Paul Floyd Blake

A Grants for the arts award from Arts Council England is helping a Hebden Bridge-based photographer develop his ambitious photographic project focusing on young athletes aspiring to take part in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In On Track for 2012, Paul Floyd Blake is, once a year from 2007 to 2012, photographing 12 young athletes with the potential to compete at London 2012. The Grants for the arts award will support an exhibition of work from the project at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford in 2012, and a publication featuring the work.

On Track for 2012 explores ordinary youngsters striving to do extraordinary things as they move from childhood to adulthood, from adolescence to physical maturity, and contemplates the effects of the ever-increasing professionalism of sport and how this impacts on the subjects as they develop.

The project has already enjoyed a significant success when Paul Floyd Blake won first prize in the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 for one of the series of portraits, Rosie Bancroft, 2008.

The athletes currently range in age from 16 to 24. Paul Floyd Blake was put in contact with a number of them by the charity Sportsaid which helps fund young talented athletes.

The young athletes are also participating in the project by expressing their hopes and fears through creative and descriptive writing, shedding light on their state of mind during training and competition.

Seventeen-year-old Fencer Alex Craig wrote: 'The mask is always there for you, when you need it to hide tears of frustration or just to retain that focus for the next bout. If someone were to ask me what was the most important piece of equipment for fencing was I'd say the sword, how couldn't I, but in a close second place is my mask for allowing me to leave things behind. The wire mesh is for our physical protection from piercing swords, but is it also for mental protection from our penetrating thoughts.'

Speaking about On Track For 2010, Paul Floyd Blake said: 'It is an absolute joy for me to work with this group of youngsters, seeing them develop and mature over the years. The project is not a blind celebration of sport and success but aims to develop a critical insight into the status that competitive sport has achieved in contemporary society.'

Tessa Gordziejko, Creative Programmer for London 2012, Arts Council England, Yorkshire concluded: 'This project is a unique study of a group of young people who are dedicating a significant part of their time, stretching over many years, to their chosen sports with the shared aim of competing at the London 2012 Olympics. It records this fascinating period in their lives in the run up to London 2012 and will form an important record of Britain as we prepare for the Games. The Arts Council is pleased to support this exhibition and publication which will enable more people to experience the arts.'

For more information about Paul Floyd Blake visit: http://www.floydphotography.co.uk/

For more information about Impressions Gallery visit: http://www.impressions-gallery.com