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Leitmeritz snaps photos of players remotely on FaceTime
"I learned that you can see something without being there," the photographer said.
Published Feb 15, 2021
In and out of airports and staying in hotel rooms across the globe for 11 months out of the year is all a part of the life of a professional tennis player. It can be lonely, and this year in Melbourne, it got even lonelier for the world's best.
Each player that arrived in Australia had to undergo a 14-day hotel room quarantine. While some players were allowed five hours per day to go outside and train, 72 players were forced to spend all 14 days inside their hotel rooms after passengers on their respective flights tested positive for COVID-19. Prominent editorial and entertainment photographer Radka Leitmeritz saw this as a moment in tennis history that had to be captured, even if she couldn't be there with her Leica camera in hand.
"On top of already being in such lonely sport, they were so isolated there and it must have been so hard to keep the motivation," Leitmeritz tells Baseline. "So I thought, this is interesting, there's something to do about it."
Leitmeritz is always inspired by capturing players beyond the court and she thought up the idea of remotely photographing the top women through FaceTime. As one can imagine, there were many challenges with getting photos from nearly 8,000 miles away in Los Angeles.
From having Barbora Strycova tape her phone to a foam roller to guiding Iga Swiatek on where to move the camera and how to make meticulous body adjustments, it was an exhausting process for both Leitmeritz and the players, but very rewarding. Through this one-of-a-kind portrait series the Czech photographer aimed to capture both the physical and mental stillness of eight WTA competitors.
"I learned that you can see something without being there," Leitmeritz says.
Leitmeritz said even if she was there in the hotel rooms of Elina Svitolina, Aryna Sabalenka and Hsieh Su-Wei she believes she would have done everything exactly the same. The only difference is she would have pulled out her Leica camera, which certainly produces a higher image quality than an iPhone. In the age of social media, it unfortunately and fortunately doesn't matter if one uses the best camera in the world or takes screenshots via FaceTime.
"The funny part is people are saying 'Oh the quality is so amazing,'' Leitmeritz says. "But the thing is people are so used to only looking at photography on their iPhones. If I would have shot it with a Leica, the resolution in which Instagram would post wouldn't be that different."
For Leitmeritz it wasn't about the quality as much as it was about highlighting the players in a different light. The last thing she wanted was for the photos to resemble a typical selfie on Instagram. Making it look as if she was there was Leitmeritz's biggest challenge. The portrait series is personal and was intended to have a somber undertone, but it ended up being uplifting and fun.
Leitmeritz gives an extra big thank you to Strycova for being her first subject in the experimental photo series. She also credits the WTA for their support and assistance to make this series come to fruition.
"It's a very intimate thing," Leitmeritz says. "They let you into their private life. Maybe, some of them were not so much into being like, 'hello!'"
The three words Leitmeritz used to describe the remote project are: "patience, imagination and challenging". The delicate process had numerous hurdles, but Leitmeritz and her eight subjects were able to jump over each of them to capture moments that will undoubtedly go down in sport's history.