2 August – 1 September 2001

Tracey Moffatt Fourth #1, 2001, colour print on canvas, 36 x 46 cm, edition of 25

The story behind my latest photo series Fourth begins in 1997. It was the year that I started to have a lot of international shows of my photography and films. I was told that someone from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Committee had telephoned and asked about the possibility of me, being available as the ‘official photographer’ for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. I expressed interest but after a while I didn’t hear back from them. This didn’t disappoint me; it only got my imagination going.  I fantasised that if I really were to be the ‘official photographer’ for the Sydney 2000 Olympics I would photograph the sporting events with my own take on it all - I would photograph the losers. 

I imagined myself walking into the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games committee offices, plonking a stack of photographs on their desk saying, “This is what I saw!”  They would be looking at images of every athlete who came last. I figured that much of the press would be full of fabulous winners, splashed across the front pages of newspapers all around the world.  Wouldn’t it be more wonderful instead to see images of the brilliant athletes who didn’t make it?  Of course none of this happened. To begin with I can barely use a camera with a telephoto lens, let alone push for a spot in the ‘press pit’ along with thousands of sports photographers from around the world crowding together to photograph the drama of the Olympic Games. 

So, at home, alone, in September 2000, there was just me and the television coverage of the Games. It was then that I narrowed my interest down to the position of Fourth.  What could be more tragic than coming Fourth in the final of an Olympic games race?  It’s sadder than coming last because when you come Fourth you have just missed out on a medal. You almost made it, but you just missed out. Fourth means that you are almost good. Not the worst (which has it’s own perverted glamour) but almost. Almost a star!  Most of the key moments captured in the twenty six images which make up Fourth are the acute moment when the athlete has just finished their final, turning or looking to see the outcome, and finding out the result… that they came Fourth! Most of the time the expression is expressionless, it’s a set look, which crosses the human face. It’s an awful, beautiful, knowing mask, which says ‘Oh s…t!’ 

Believe me, it wasn’t easy to find these moments since most of the press coverage couldn’t care less about anyone in Fourth position after a race. The camera always swings past them onto the winner. I had to concentrate and grab these moments. 

My photo series Fourth is no great document of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. I think I’m trying to say something grand about competition in general. That it’s beautiful to try. That to reach a final at an Olympic Games is a great achievement. To even be invited to participate in the Olympic Games is a great achievement. To even be athletic in general is a great achievement. To get yourself up and walk down the street is a great achievement. To wake up and face another hideous day is a great achievement. To even think about what you are going to do in the next hour is a great achievement. I could go on and on.  Like I said, I have a different take on it all.

Tracey Moffatt, 2001

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