In the 1970s there was only Mike Plant, the Vietnam vet lurking in recycled fatigues, hiding in the rents and seams of an embryonic multisport world. Plant loved to hide behind his Nikon FT3, just beyond the edges of the race registration tent, the early transition zone, and the place that allowed him to re-integrate into The World. His photos represent a sentiment of hope and struggle; that the 70s weren’t just one big 60s hangover.
And then came color and disco and the rock and roll emergent sport of triathlon.
Dave Epperson grew up in the shifting stucco shadows of Long Beach, California, a former beach town gone industrial maritime under the heaving pressure of the military complex; an early 20th century jewel mutated to accommodate the pressures of national security, urban sprawl, and the moonly-price of newly discovered, neighborhood oil. His regional socialization was clearly evident in the images he produced as triathlon’s first committed professional shooter. Dave saw things from a longer view.
Not surprisingly, Epperson got his start in the world of surf media, hanging with a group of upstart Newport Beach groms. Recording their early 80s antics under the SoCal sun helped to form Epperson’s unique POVs that sold triathlon. In 1983, no one had thought about the aesthetics of this triple sport. And for anyone who consumed his images in the fabled triumvirate of Triathlete/Outside/Sports Illustrated magazines, his work launched an artistic milieu that was soon to be copied but never replaced.
The following 16 images represent, to me, the heart of Epperson’s artistic contribution to the history of triathlon.
– Scott Tinley