While the extraordinary Henry Cavill is all over the media as the caped crusader, I thought I’d share my superman experience.
Before the Sydney Olympics I was commissioned by magazine (Not Only) Black and White* to shoot some of the Australian Olympic team members , including diver Dean Pullar, who, because of the graceful aerial aspect of his sport, we decided to capture as a kind of Aussie superman.
This entailed constructing a trampoline on the eighth floor rooftop of the inner city Pioneer Studios in Sydney, and having Dean leap into the air with a flag, to form various flying formations while airborne.
It sounded straight forward and Dean was up for it. But, as it panned out on the day, it was pretty perilous stuff, and I was startled by the effortless height the naked Dean could attain, away from the safety of the roof and the trampoline. He was oblivious to both danger and to his nudity in front of the crew, a free spirit all around. Once I got over my own fear at shooting him from on top of a flimsy ladder held by an assistant in gusty wind, we got some amazing shots, which are a testament to Dean both as a sportsman and as a person.
Three other important things came out of this shoot. One was Dean Pullar reconfirmed for me that elite sportspeople are in an inspiringly fearless world of their own. More on that another time, but at one point he asked me why none of the photos the magazine ran were ever of men fully naked. He pointed out there were often fully nude women in the pages but men were always strategically covered as if there was some kind of shame about the male genitalia. I fumbled around for an adequate answer to this rare question, knowing there wasn’t one apart from ‘society isn’t ready for it and the magazine probably wasn’t prepared to risk it.’ He said he wanted to be the first, then. (He never got his wish, and I am bound to protect his privacy in this blog context , too, in these days of ‘sharing’ and other copyright breaches.)
The second thing, which was the diametric opposite of the first, was that there was a middle aged tradesman working on the roof of the studio who took it upon himself to sidle over to me during a break to ask “what’s these photos for?” and then inform me that he didn’t agree with what we were doing . ‘Why do you have to shoot the guy naked ‘, he asked? Taken aback, and shrinking back into a guilty catholic schoolboy, I stuttered something about the magazine paying homage to the original Greek Olympic ideal and the beauty of the sporting physique. He told me ‘Well, the silent majority don’t agree with it’. And my heart sank like a rock into my stomach and stayed there for an hour or so , probably until Dean could lift it out again with his own infectious liberation.
The third thing was the light hearted headline on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald the next morning reporting that there had been several sightings of a naked superman flying over Sydney!
Dean went on to win Australia’s first Olympic diving medal in eighty years at the Sydney Games.