Turn on your television nowadays and it's likely that you'll stumble onto some news of the London 2012 Olympics. Looking at the sports individually, it would seem like all athletes have the same muscular body type, but when seen side by side, their differences are astounding. The different body types of Olympic athletes is presented in glorious detail by Howard Schatz and Beverly Ornstein.
Howard Schatz and Beverly Ornstein's images have graced the pages of different publications including Time, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated and many, many others. Their photographs have also been exhibited in museums worldwide.
The photographers have covered all kinds of portraiture subjects, from athletes to pregnant mothers to dancers. Going through these different images and projects, it becomes easy to see their signature style: efficient and creative use of studio lights to illuminate the beauty and grace of the human body.
Athlete is the culmination of Schatz and Ornstein's previous work on the human body. After finding inspiration in the graceful form of dancers, the photographers turn to athletes. Unlike dancers however, these sports specialists show off the beauty of the body in different shapes and sizes.
Schatz and Ornstein show off the variability in the human species, from the smallest ice skaters to the tallest basketball players. The similarities and differences are even more obvious with the backdrop, attire and lighting used in these photographs: Athletes wearing simple black undergarments against a plain black backdrop. If you're wondering where your own body fits in all of these magnificent specimens of humanity, check out this Olympic athlete body match on the BBC website.
In some cases, the build difference is interesting but expected: high jumpers tower over gymnasts and marathon runners are lithe compared to bodybuilders. What's surprising is the variety in builds even in the same category: Some athletes in the weightlifting category look twice the size of their colleagues while in synchronized swimming, the swimmers have almost the same body size.
The difference in muscle and fat distribution also becomes more obvious: weightlifters have huge shoulders while runners are almost skeletal compared to everyone else. It would take many days to write down the similarities and differences of these Olympians, which goes to show how well planned and executed these portraits are. Howard Schatz and Beverly Ornstein should receive their own gold medal for this laudable Olympic project.
This is Howard Schatz and Beverly Ornstein's website. All images were taken from Nina Matsumoto's blog where you'll find more body size comparisons. Schatz's collaboration with Ornstein on the different body types of Olympic athletes can be found in the book Athlete. They also has a number of other publications, including Nude Body Nude and At the Fights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing.