The Image Maker

Photographer David Burnett Wins Greenfield Prize

Burnett's commission project will center on senior athletes in competition.

By Kay Kipling Photography by David Burnett March 13, 2017

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Olympic diving trials


Taking pictures of athletes is just one aspect of renowned photojournalist David Burnett’s long career, but it’s the one that the 2017 Greenfield Prize winner will focus on for a show that will debut in Sarasota in spring 2019.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and its partner, the Greenfield Foundation, recently announced that Burnett would receive this year’s prize, at a celebration dinner held on April 22 at Michael’s On East. The prize selection, now in its 10th year, is a bit of a break from the categories of drama, music and the visual arts for which it’s usually awarded.

Burnett has been an acclaimed photographer for decades, working for such publications as Life, Time and People and authoring three large-format photography books. He’s also covered every Summer Olympics Games since 1984, traveling to Seoul, Park City, London and other cities to aim his lens at international athletes.

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Two American Olympics wrestling contenders, 2004


Burnett intends to take photos of athletes for the Sarasota exhibit as well, which will be featured at the new Sarasota Museum of Art. But in this case, the bodies performing amazing feats will be much older than the Olympians.

“There are a lot of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s” who are still competing in athletic games, says Burnett. “People in their 80s are shot putting, those in their 70s are running hurdles. It’s so seldom you see that intensity. I just turned 70 myself, but I don’t feel at all like it. I don’t think 70 should be one of those barriers you can’t elbow your way past.”

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The 4x400m relay, men's series, London 2012


Burnett says he wants to track down people participating in other state games in addition to the National Summer Games in Birmingham, Alabama, he’ll be photographing this summer. “I want to see them in training, before the actual competition,” he explains. “And I am trying to keep it to competitive athletes only, to capture this ongoing sense of never really giving up the race.”

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Ski jumping in Sochi, Russia, 2014


Burnett will receive a $30,000 commission for his project, as well as a residency at the Hermitage to ensure time and space in which to do the work. For more information about the Greenfield Prize, visit Enjoy Burnett's Olympics photos above, to whet your appetite for what’s to come later.


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