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Brooklyn Museum sports photography clicks with fans and non-fans

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement,

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, 200-meter gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) inspired this iconic image by performing the Black Panther salute during a medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Credit: AP

What one gets out of the ambitious Brooklyn Museum exhibit, “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present,” which runs through Jan. 8, depends in part on what one brings to the experience.

Hypothetically, if one were a 55-year-old sportswriter, many of the images would be familiar, from Neil Leifer’s iconic 1966 photo of Cleveland Williams after being decked by Muhammad Ali to John Carlos and Tommie Smith giving a black power salute at the 1968 Olympics.

For such a person, the real fun of the exhibit is in more obscure images, often from unfamiliar sports in unfamiliar lands, but even more so in historic photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Coolest of all might be the oldest of all, a photo from 1843 of a Scottish court tennis player posing with his racket cocked, even though in reality he had to hold still for quite a while because of long exposure times.

For those younger than 55 and/or less familiar with sports, the exhibit will be even more of a revelation.

On a recent visit, a middle-aged non-sports fan was fascinated to learn about Smith and Carlos, a very old story that to fresh eyes was very new.

There are about 230 works in all representing 170 photographers, including some of the biggest names in sports photography — and photography in general — over the past 100-plus years. Allow at least an hour to peruse it all.

Tickets for the exhibit cost $16 and include general admission to the rest of the museum.

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