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Caught in the act of winning and losing

Fall exhibits highlight the role of women in sports; another focuses on L.A.

September 23, 2004|Duane Noriyuki | Times Staff Writer

In one photograph, soccer player Brandi Chastain kneels on the turf -- her eyes closed, arms raised, fists clenched -- upon scoring the winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup title game. In another photo, weightlifter Cheryl Haworth stands alone on a country road holding a log above her head.

Each image seeks to answer the question posed in the title of "Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?," a photo exhibition running till the end of October at USC's Fisher Gallery.

Reflecting the range of emotions in athletics -- victory and defeat, joy and heartbreak, determination and innocence -- it's one of three sports photography shows that will be on display in Los Angeles by the middle of next month. Running concurrently with "Game Face" is "The Women of Troy," a look at USC female athletes over the last 125 years. And on Oct. 16, the exhibition "Play by Play: A Century of Sports Photography, 1889-1989" opens at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library.

"Game Face" creator Jane Gottesman came up with the concept for her show while working as a sportswriter at the San Francisco Chronicle. She noticed how few photographs in the section showed female athletes.

So she and Geoffrey Biddle -- co-curator, photographer and Gottesman's husband -- asked photographers to submit images.

Some sent one print, others sent a box of contact sheets. The show includes photos by Dorothea Lange, Robert Mapplethorpe and Annie Leibovitz.

In a book also titled "Game Face" (2001, Random House), Gottesman writes: " 'Game Face's' mission is big: to convey that athletics is a catalyst for girls' and women's self-creation, self-knowledge and self-expression. It has a political mission as well: to reinforce the importance of Title IX by reflecting girls and women at play."

The exhibition, which includes 139 images, opened in 2001 at the Smithsonian Institution, just before the 30th anniversary of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools.

"One of the things we're proud of about 'Game Face' is its breadth," Biddle says. "The fact that it includes not only a broad range of sports and a broad range of ages, races and so on, it also includes a broad range of skill and a broad range of body types."

There's a photo of a girl in East Harlem playing hopscotch, and a silver-haired woman preparing to launch a shotput.

Among the famous are Susan Butcher, a four-time winner of the Iditarod, Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, sprinters Gail Devers and Marion Jones, tennis player Serena Williams, and downhill skier Picabo Street.

One of the great sports rivalries, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, moves off the court as the two of them, dressed in evening wear, take to arm wrestling at an awards banquet.

"We were comparing our record and then we started saying things like, 'You want to go outside and settle this?' We decided to arm wrestle instead," Evert says of the photograph.

Navratilova's reaction to the photo: "I should have worn my tank top."

There's a shot of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. She is photographed running between rows of spectators at the New York Marathon in 1974.

"The guys were enthusiastic, but you can see on the women's faces, they were not particularly enthusiastic," Switzer says in the accompanying text. "Women were often the hardest people to win over in the battle for acceptance of women's sports."

At the Central Library in downtown L.A., "Play by Play" takes a local approach.

Four years ago, David Davis, a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine, was asked to go through the library's sports photos, many of them from the archives of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, which closed in 1989. The intent was to put them on the library's database.

Davis speaks of "an incredible rich history" of local sports that emerged one image at a time.

In addition to key moments in sports history, Davis has given the show the feel of a family photo album. There's Darryl Strawberry on the mound for Crenshaw High School; Don Drysdale pitching for Van Nuys High School; Mark McGwire playing for USC; Lew Alcindor, before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, wearing cap and gown at UCLA; Jackie Robinson in a basketball uniform.

One of the best-known photographs shows Rick Monday, while playing for the Chicago Cubs, rescuing Old Glory from two spectators who entered the Dodger Stadium playing field and tried to burn the flag.

Not all the images are of athletes. One shows a woman in 1959 being forcibly removed from her home so the area could be cleared for the construction of Dodger Stadium.

"I don't think you have to be a sports fan to look at that Rick Monday shot and see a beautiful, graceful shot," Davis says. "I hope there are examples that go beyond sports to talk about how we live our lives and how society has evolved."


Sports photography

What: "Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?" and "The Women of Troy"

Where: USC Fisher Gallery, 823 Exposition Blvd., L.A.

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Ends Oct. 30.

Price: Free

Contact: (213) 740-4561,


What: "Play by Play: A Century of Sports Photography, 1889-1989"

Where: Richard J. Riordan Central Library, Getty Gallery and 1st Floor Galleries, 630 W. 5th St., L.A.

When: Opens Oct. 16. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 27.

Price: Free

Contact: (213) 228-7000,

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