My 14 Favorite Photographs from Rio

Jed Jacobsohn

Before coming to Rio, there was a lot of negative buzz in regards to whether Brazil was prepared for the games. These were the ninth Olympic Games I’ve covered in my career. Because of that, I wasn’t overly concerned —there’s generally a degree of negative buzz heading into every games.

There was a lot of talk about Zika but the bigger obstacle was crime. One of the joys of attending an Olympics is exploring the culture of the host nation by venturing about. In Rio, however, most media stayed in protected areas.

Still, the Olympics provide photographers like myself the chance to capture images of the greatest athletes in the world, in their element. These games in particular were notable for historical athletes competing one final time (Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt), and the coronation of a new generation of athletes that we’ll be discussing for decades to come (Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky).

With that in mind, here are my 14 favorite photographs I took in Rio, at an Olympic Games that were, if nothing else, memorable.

1Setting the scene. In this shot, I wanted to capture the scenic nature of the Christ the Redeemer, while also highlighting the U.S. women’s rowing team, which happened to win gold in this race.

2 Zeroed In. During the Olympics — and many other major events — it is challenging to create a graphically strong detail shot. This was my first day shooting the U.S.A. women’s basketball team, so I tried to capture portraits of our stars in a creative form.

3Samuel Mikulak on the floor and in the air. I shot this overhead to illustrate the breadth of the routine. I wanted to try and do something different, and take advantage of my camera’s multiple exposure technology.

4Three-peat for Usain Bolt. I love this photo because it illustrates just how seemingly easy it is for Bolt to win, and how dominant he has been over the competition.

5The legend, Michael Phelps. Trying to illustrate his speed and power in the water, I slowed the shutter speed down and this really conveyed the motion.

6 Phelps waves goodbye. In this photo, Phelps had just come out of the pool for the final time of his Olympic career. There were about four TV cameraman and line officials in the way, so this was the only clean shot I got of the moment.

7United I. This image is all about the contrasts. It signifies what makes the Olympics special in many ways. Two cultures united through sport.

8 United II. Strength, unity and dominance are some words that come to mind when thinking about our women’s basketball team. I wanted to make a frame that evoked those same elements.

9On their heads. These photos are a great look at just how amazing the maneuvers the gymnasts are able to do on the beam and during their events.

10Team Effot. There are some moments during the Olympics where you are simply left in awe of the human body’s capability. Synchronized swimming is one of the more entertaining sports to witness and photograph. The outfits, music and athleticism all combine for an impressive spectacle.

11 Split Second. Sometimes the details in sports cannot be seen by the naked eye. I was looking for extreme tight action here because clean backgrounds at beach volleyball were difficult to find.

12Statuesque. The gold medal winner of the Olympic Decathlon also earns the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete.” I wanted to make a striking image of Ashton Eaton as he warmed up for the javelin — an image that incorporated the graphical elements of the track lines, and carried the metaphorical weight of his imminent title.

13 Love what you do. The last three Olympics have given us three opportunities to fall in love with the great Usain Bolt’s showmanship and passion. I knew he would kiss the line, as he does after every gold victory. The emptiness of the frame, accompanied only by the Olympic rings, shows his dominance in the field. In other words, he stands alone.

14 Sisters in Arms. From lane one, the 4 x 100m champions exit the track after beating Jamaica by 0.35 seconds. Allyson Felix led her teammates from the podium after being photographed, draped in American flags.


All images © Jed Jacobsohn/The Players’ Tribune