Knives in the Water
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Accompanying Outside‘s inside report on the battle for the 2003 America’s Cup are graphically stunning images by New York-based photographer Jeff Riedel. The 34-year-old found his way into the profession in the 1990s after his grandfather gave him an old camera and he ventured down to Virginia shoot a rally of striking coal miners. “I developed the film in my kitchen sink and made prints in my bathroom and was instantly hooked, ” he says. “I knew that I would be taking pictures for the rest of my life.”
Stalking the America’s Cup challenger syndicates as they tested their jealously guarded, multimillion-dollar yachts in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf presented an entirely new type of challenge for Riedel, who contributes portrait, fashion, music, and investigative reporting photographs to GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and others. Hanging out of helicopters and snooping past security to peak into boat sheds proved to be thrilling, if frustrating work. “I felt very isolated, almost like a paparazzi, trying to capture subjects who viewed me with nothing but hostility,” he says. “I have had better luck accessing top secrets of the American government then I had getting a ride on a sailboat in New Zealand.”
It was Riedel’s unfamiliarity with sailing that breathed a unique artistic perspective into his work. Whereas veteran sailing photographers might have seen hulls, winches, and spinnakers, he saw light, shapes, and patterns. He returned home with a fondness for the athletic sailors that actually make the boats go, and a treasure trove of images.