Run Through The Tape

I have been hearing this expression over and over these last days. A possibly overused metaphor leading up to tomorrow’s election?

“Just run through the tape!”  

It is a wonderful metaphor, actually. But the reality of it is even more astonishing.

Robert shot every Olympics from the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina (Italy) to the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. But some of his most iconic images come from his first Summer Olympics in Rome in 1960. Most iconic - Wilma Rudolph winning the final leg of the 4 X 100 relay that September. She would go on to win three gold medals that month. She was the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympiad.

These images - of her about to breast the tape, then of her with the tape fluttering around her after she runs through it - they feel so very very relevant just now. Especially now, as our nation reminds itself of the courage and brilliance and critical importance of the black lives that have contributed to its wonder. It makes me smile to think of Robert there, in Rome 60 years ago, capturing the beauty of Wilma Rudolph’s win. It’s almost prophetic. The image she leaves behind - of running through the tape - is just what we need right now.

Behind Wilma are silver medalist Jutta Heine (left) of the unified German team, and the Russian Irina Press (center). A Polish team runner placed third, but is out of frame. 

In any case. When you hear all the pundits and political party folks tonight and all through tomorrow talking about “running through the tape” - these are the images that should come to mind. This is how it’s done!


“Stevie” Cauthen was only 18 years old when he jockeyed Affirmed to a 1978 Triple Crown win. The year before, Cauthen had become the first jockey - at the age of seventeen - to win over $6 million in a year. He was a phenom. 

The dueling front-runners in the 1978 Triple Crown contention - Affirmed and Alydar - will be forever linked in horse racing history. Affirmed won each of the Triple Crown races, yes. But Alydar, with Jorge Velasquez as guide, was only a couple of hoofbeats behind in all three.

Robert loved shooting Cauthen. The narrative of his youth captured Robert’s imagination. And then the excitement of the possibility - and achievement - of back-to-back Triple Crowns. Robert was all over this stuff. 

After riding for a few years in the United States, Cauthen went on to race in Europe. (He had begun having trouble meeting his weight limits in the US; Europe’s limits were more flexible.) Cauthen is the only jockey to have won both the Kentucky and Epsom Derbies.

Once again … the linked images above are from RRLT’s current licensing partner’s site, Getty Images. Enjoy!

Seattle Slew

If you haven’t watched the movie Secretariat recently, it’s definitely worth a view this week. True, it’s “not a documentary, it’s a Disney Movie,” as many of the reviews noted in 2010. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty great Disney movie. And it gives a wonderful sense of the power - even the genius - of some of these horses. Not to mention the crap shoot involved in raising and running a “winning” horse. Beyond that, we are reminded of the very fact of the rarity of a Triple Crown winner - a three year old thoroughbred, with not a lot of races under its saddle.

Prior to Secretariat, some had started to question whether another Triple Crown win was even possible for any one horse, given the new worlds of horse breeding and training. Indeed, a horse hadn’t won all three races (Derby, Preakness, Belmont) since Citation in 1948.  But Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown only four years after Secretariat’s accomplishment. 

Slew bested Secretariat by winning with an undefeated career. (Secretariat had had some spectacular losses - as dramatized in the movie - leading up to the Kentucky Derby. That said, Secretariat retains the speed record - indeed the world record for that length of hard track - for the Belmont stakes. Secretariat won his Belmont by 31 lengths.)

A big part of the Slew story lies in the humble aspect of his origins. He had been purchased for only $17.5K. And he looked funny. (His right front foot turned out; he swayed to the right when he ran.) He was owned by two couples, not some huge syndicate. They bought him in 1975 when a vet pointed them in the direction of a huge horse with a small tail.

The jockey Jean Cruguet empowered  Slew’s victories. The horse was often jittery at the gate. At the Derby, “[w]hen the gate shot up, a startled Slew lunged, stumbled and jerked his head sideways, cutting his mouth. It bled the entire race. The 13 other starters took off ahead of him.” But Cruguet steadied him, guided him strategically through the crowd, and let him run.

I only accompanied Robert to the track a couple of times. When we were living in New York City, we would go out to Belmont for him to get some shots. As I recall, they weren’t “big” races. Nevertheless, standing with him  right at the edge of the track (his reputation got him some pretty great shot-spots), the sense of the power of the horses in full run, of their massive size and strength and speed, astonished me. It’s something you don’t get from seeing it on TV/film. 

The photo links above are to Getty Images, RRLT’s current image licensing site. (They have a whole array of options for purchasing images through them, if you’re interested.) But I also attach a Robert pic of Slew from their site. As well as a pic of a lovely, huge (40” long) photo Robert himself framed for one of his exhibits. We have it hanging in the Gallery. It so well captures the otherworldly magic of a horse in full, competitive stride.


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