Sports is an amazing subject for photography, and I love highlighting the work of other photographers in addition to my own. Pelle Cass recently shot an amazing series, for which he photoshopped hours of sports events into single photos. Check out his mind blowing work!
Crowded Fields by Pelle Cass
Crowded Fields is a series of composite photographs, showing fields full of people playing sports. Up to a thousand shots were used to create each of the final images.
I got in touch with Pelle Cass to ask him about this project. Pelle describes his work as a still time-lapse showing how play prevails over competition. The photographer emphasises that nothing was changed, not a pixel. Everything happened just as you see it, just not at the same time.
His aim with the series was to convey a sense of ecstatic chaos, transforming sports back into a game instead of a competitive event. Amazingly, assembling a single photo in Photoshop takes him about 40 hours, with the full process including shooting might take two weeks of full time work. Talk about effort.
Read more on the project in this Petapixel post.
What I liked about Crowded Fields
This series reminded me somewhat of that famous Matrix scene where an army of agent Smiths fights protagonist Neo. The major difference being that the mood is completely different in these photos of course. They strike me as playful and chaotic, a celebration of just messing about and enjoying yourself playing sports. The people in the photos seem to be unaware of the insane amount of people surrounding them, only focusing on the ball, track or water.
Of course what makes this series work is the simple but incredibly effective concept. I like how Pelle kept the post-processing for these photos clean, journalistic almost. No fancy toning was needed, he just shows the world as is, more or less.
Interpretation of Crowded Fields
When I got in touch with Pelle, I also asked him about whether he was trying to make a point with these photos. Is there any deeper meaning to them? His response was that he avoids trying to make points in general. However, he was willing to part with some interpretation:
One way [to interpret the series] is the strangeness of time. I reorder the sequence of a game or a match so that it is sporting nonsense. I don’t try to tell the story of the game, as a regular sports photographer might. And I’m not purely interested in the beauty of bodies in motion as some sports photography is. Instead, I’m interested in seeing games and sports in a different way, one that emphasizes the chaos and fun of competition and at the same time calls out the patterned, routinized nature of sports. So if I have a point, it could be to undermine or alter the normal hypercompetitive nature of sports.
Another thing that I think about is that the (mostly) college sports I photograph are played in bastions of privilege, Harvard Stadium being the prime example. I truly don’t think my work speaks to this, but it’s also hard to ignore. I plan to photograph some non-college sports, maybe children and maybe adult leagues. And maybe distinctly non-collegiate sports like bowling.
It was really interesting to read how Pelle isn’t trying to tell a story. In my own photography, I’m always focused on telling a story about a person. For Pelle to just feel liberated from that approach and instead focus on the fun of sports and showing something amusing is inspiring.
For me personally, this series just shows the power of sports and its role in our society. The number of people that are passionately practicing sports, no matter at which level, is just enormous. It gives them a goal, something to train for and something to put their energy into.
Sports has always played a major role in my own life as well – here’s some personal reflection on sports in my life.
Check out more work by Pelle Cass
For the full series and far more work by Pelle, I encourage you to check out his various online channels: