PhotographerTheresa Ortolani
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

ENDURANCE offers embedded access and a scope that spans three years of off-road racing. Ortolani began shooting Kanney at a race in 2006 in which Kanney made GNCC history by winning the race as a privateer and Ortolani was hooked on a sport that is at turns beautiful and inescapably brutal. Ortolani traveled thousands of miles across the U.S. and Europe, in the process capturing Kanney’s ascent from underdog privateer to Factory Team rider. Ortolani applies an artist’s eye to this unforgiving sport and the riders who pursue it, resulting in an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes window into this punishing competition.


Nate Kanney left his spleen in Poland. Kanney, the main subject of Theresa Ortolani’s Endurance, crashed his KTM dirt bike during a Polish enduro race, but picked it up and kept going until he was pulled from the race by a team manager and taken to the hospital. Doctors removed his ruptured spleen and told him he probably would’ve died if he kept racing. That’s the m.o. of the enduro racing world: unless you’re literally on the verge of death, you stay on the throttle. Imagine fighting Chuck Liddell for hours at a time on the deck of a pitching Alaskan trawler, and you start to get an idea of the mental and physical strain of an endure. In an age where many once-gladiatory sports have become watered-down exercises in marketing enduro racing remains intensely raw, a dangerous enterprise populated with a colorful, profane cast of daredevils. It’s the Star Wars speeder-bike race through the trees, but with snorting, twitchy Kawasakis and KTMs blurring the scenery in pursuit of a podium spot and a sponsorship. Ortolani applies an artist’s eye to this brutal sport and the men who pursue it, resulting in an unprecedented behind-the-scenes window into this punishing competition. In 2006, Kanney invited Ortolani to shoot his race in Unadilla, Georgia, and Ortolani found herself knee-deep in mud, her bulky medium-format camera getting spattered with shredded turf from the pack of wailing bikes flying past. Kanney won the race and Ortolani was hooked on a sport that is at turns beautiful and inescapably brutal. Over the next three years, Ortolani traveled thousands of miles to more than 10 events, in the process capturing Kanney’s ascent from underdog privateer to KTM factory rider—an achievement that required beating world champions riding bikes three times the cost of his. Most chronicles of this sport appear in magazines, and thus focus on a particular race, a compendium of who placed where last weekend. Endurance, however, combines embedded behind-the-scenes access—not just the races, but the travel, the preparation and the parties that go with them—with a scope spans the U.S. and Europe, and years instead of weekends. Endurance focuses on Kanney, but also includes competitors like Travis Pastrana. It’s guys like this that Kanney was up against in his quest to go from privateer to factory pro. As a bit of insight into the personality type that this sport requires, in 2008 Pastrana jumped out of a plane without a parachute. When your job description includes jockeying for position at 75 miles per hour on a dusty Vegas trail, then partying all night and driving 18 hours to the next race, you need an unusual mix of athleticism and the ability to sublimate pain. Ortolani recently received a casual e-mail from Kanney explaining a 60 mile-per-hour crash during practice: “Crashed today and for sure damaged a rib or two. I can’t breef.” Just another day on the job, another chapter in a racer’s story of endurance.

About Photographer

Brooklyn-based Visual Artist Theresa Ortolani is a PhD Candidate in the European Graduate School's Philosophy / Art / Critical Thought program and a Dean’s Scholar in the ICP-Bard MFA Avanced Photographic Studies program. She graduated cum laude from Boston University's College of Fine Arts with a BFA in sculpture and photography. Ortolani has developed and directed arts programs in conjunction with the Ansel Adams Center, the San Francisco Art Institute, NYU and SUNY. As a seven-time PDN winner and “30 Photographers to Watch” nominee (2010 - 2015), her photographs have been included in three consecutive New York Photo Festivals (2013-2015) and the Seoul International Photo Festival (2015). Klompching Gallery’s FRESH finalist, Visura Multimedia Grant first place finalist, IPA/Lucie 2nd place winner and 16 IPA/Lucie Honorable Mentions (2015) are also highlighted among her recent accolades. Ortolani’s first short film (Saudade: Name of the Father) and first monograph, Endurance (powerHouse Books), were selected as "Multimedia Winner" and "Best Book" by PDN 2016 & 2010 Annual. Both received three International Photography Award/Lucie Foundation Honorable Mentions. Her forthcoming monograph, "BOUND", and her first feature film, "SAUDADE", are in production.