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Racy picture from skating? Figures.

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer - @RussellPhotos


It is a testament to the power of the still image, 

Yesterday Twitterverse heated up over Kevin Van Paassen's front page picture of Kaetlyn Osmond skating in the ISU World Championships Exhibition Gala. 

The Monday, March 18, 2013, Globe and Mail front page.

Millions watched the event televised and saw the same things that you see on the photo. But, it's the photo that freezes action that generates debate.

 While some people fault the photographer because they don't believe that a crotch shot  should be moved, skating has evolved in the past few years where high leg position spins are an integral part of skater's routines.

Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle, who has been involved with figure skating for 20 years as a skater, university coach, and now as part of a synchronized team says, "When Nancy Kerrigan won silver at the '94 Olympics, she was holding her knee to get her spiral leg at a 45 degree angle. Now, skaters are expected to be able to hold their free leg above their head in a standing split. In a program, what you see is the speed, the strength, and the gymnast-like flexibility. In a still photo - that moment looks like, well, the skater, is, er, on display. Hence the backlash to the Globe's photo."

 Doolittle recognizes, "photographers aren't cheerleaders, they're capturing moments. And that moment was definitely a memorable one in her exhibition skate."

I was there too, I have a similar frame, I filed it, I published it on our photo blog covering the event. I do not fault the photographer for moving it. It was the best picture from Osmond's routine. 

Since these manoeuvres are in every routine, photographers are more vigilant when we edit for costume malfunctions.

I hate these kinds of debates. Where does the blame go? Photographers for shooting the picture? Photographers for moving it? Photo editor for approving it? Page editor who puts it on the page? Night editor who signs off on it?  Heck, the discussion could go the other way too. Are there issues with costume design? Choreography?

I think that the real debate here should be over placement. Does it belong on A1? Somewhere inside?

This picture has almost taken on the same discussion as the newsroom debate about dead bodies. I know it is weird to compare the two, but the similarities might be in the debate about where in the paper it should run. Newspapers do not take lightly to the publishing pictures of dead people. We have to consider the magnitude of the event and whether the picture merits being on front, especially if it is the best picture or best story telling picture from the event.

This is an ethical debate where there is no black and white, but I'm sure if the photo had run inside on a black and white page this picture would not have been an issue.

I can see why the Globe would want to publish a picture of Kaetlyn Osmond on front. She was ranked 36th in the world by the ISU rankings going into London. She was an amazing fourth after the short program, she wound up finishing eighth. Amazing! Even more amazing is that her top 10 performance qualified two skaters for Canada in the Sochi Olympics. While other Canadians did very well, her story was the buzz at Worlds.

Osmond skated her Free program late on Saturday night because CBC broadcast the Leafs game before going to skating. The Globe and Mail doesn't publish a Sunday paper so the first opportunity to publish a picture of her since her great finish. And rather than run a two day old picture, they opted with a newer one.

If we look at the fold, if that paper land on your doorstep rightside up, the picture works, Kaetlyn Osmond smiling and tipping her hat with a skate high in the air. However, if that paper landed on the door step upside down, then you see something different. Maybe it is the nice glossy paper.

Toronto Star Picture Editor Canice Leung weighs in, "A1 is a sacred spot — photos there have to convey a lot of things: the most important news stories of the day, what you think readers will be drawn to, or the one photo that you think readers just HAVE to see that day. 

Photographing that moment wasn’t wrong, per se. The high kick is a demonstration of athleticism, but it’s the front-on angle that makes it jarring."

The Toronto Star does publish Sunday and we did run a similar picture of Osmond on the front of our Sports section. Although Yuna Kim regained her world championship that same day and Canadian Ice Dance pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the silver medal, Osmond was the story.

Personally, I see a great moment of athletisism captured, I'm a little shocked that people are focused on other aspects. 

When I asked a friend of mine, Dr, Ken Mueller,  who used to skate pairs on a national level what he thought of the controversy, he had this to say, "The positive fallout for Kaetlyn was a lot of extra publicity and attention.  Much ado about nothing to me, but hopefully Kaetlyn can attract a bit of extra funding to support her training heading into an Olympic year based on the extra buzz."

Amen to that.


The Toronto Star, March 17, 2013, front page drew one complaint according to Public Editor Kathy English.


Kaetlyn's exhibition,

Kaetlyn Osmond's skate in the Exhibition. Not the best moment.


Another moment from the Exhibition, not bad but still not a nice a moment. And it might not have fit the space for it on the front.


An alternate to the other picture with the leg across the body.


Every athlete in women's skating has some version of a skill where you may end up with a crotch shot.

Elene Gedevanishvili from Georgia who trains with Brian Orser has insane flexibilty.


Japan's Mao Asada skates to "I got Rhythm" 


Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada had a strong skate to Mambo #8 during the women's short program.


This isn't just about one perfomance, it happens in other events too. Ice Dance gives us some unique poses some of which raised my eyebrow while shooting.


If this was a sliver time captured here, I wouldn't think anything of it, but Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue held this pose for a while.


But more on point, the beginning of this lift relates to how a small sliver can make something look very inappropriate. We try to edit this little moments out. Appologies to Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, but just using this as an example.




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It's figure skating people! You can't have it both ways.

"Not bad...but it might not have fit the space"

Is your house filled with pictures of your family sneezing, because taking a third shot would have been far too difficult?

This isn't rocket science. Its photography. You delete the ones out of focus, the sneezes, the red eyes, and That picture.

When its on the front page, in colour, and a minor? You make for darn sure you choose a professional photograph.

It's more than figure skating, Mr van Dassen...
These days with 'high speed photography' and 'continuous photography' even an amateur photographer can capture the most innappropriate picture, given time. It's selecting the 'right picture' to be published is what matters. Suffice it for me to say that the ones published are not the most flattering, but in 'bad taste'? I don't think so.

I used to work for Skate Canada as their Archivist, and one thing that seems to be normal, were shots just like these... I have no idea why it's an issue now.

the ad in the Toronto Star for Zara fashions was offensive, these girls are not, Zara had some anorexic/junkie/bulemic girl who's hair looked like it was cut with a straight razor popping up for 2 dyas, that was offensive, and what about the crotch shot trend in advertising, jeans, underwear, the last few years it's been a trend, almost every bus shelter you passed had some prepubescent girl or David Beckham shoving his or her crotch in the camera

What a bunch of prudes! She's athletic, she's talented, and she's also a skater which means she wears short skirts and kicks high! Folks, this IS ice skating! For every person who was shocked there were probably ten people who enjoyed the cheekiness, spontaneity, honesty and sexiness of this photo. I am one of them.


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