The Finish Line

Spotlight / Shoot Spotlight
Ben Garvin
Sarah Foster
Apr 8, 2024
Photographer Ben Garvin has built a stunning body of work capturing the transformative experience of amateur athletes as they cross a marathon finish line.
Marathons are grueling. In between the giddy excitement at the starting line and the glorious satisfaction at the finish, runners navigate 26.2 miles of physical and mental rigors, honed through months of dedicated training. Surprisingly, despite the challenge—or perhaps because of it—marathon participation worldwide has nearly doubled over the past 25 years.1 This surge may mirror a shift towards prioritizing health and wellness, recognizing the profound impact physical activity can have on mental wellbeing. VisualGPS research indicates that 68% of Americans actively seek ways to enhance their mental health daily, with 44% incorporating exercise into their regimen for this purpose.
Studies on runners reveal that completing a marathon serves as a significant life event, shaping one's beliefs about future accomplishments. The act of conquering seemingly insurmountable physical challenges can yield emotional and spiritual fulfillment.2
Photographer Ben Garvin has crafted a distinctive portfolio capturing these transformative marathon experiences. Through his lens, he immortalizes the intense emotions of amateur runners as they cross the finish line: Tears, elation, relief, exhaustion, and exhilaration. With up to 6000 frames per race, Ben's intimate compositions convey the essence of each individual. Vibrant color shots radiate energy, capturing nuances like flushed cheeks and unique personal style, while his signature black‑and‑white treatments elevate these fleeting moments to timeless, epic proportions. These images become powerful metaphors for resilience, achievement, determination, and the indomitable human spirit.

Ben shares, “The variety of bodies and abilities streaming across the finish line often moves me to tears. I try to remain a neutral party but often end up cheering, high‑fiving, congratulating. It feels like a real honor to witness thousands upon thousands these moments within a few hours. […] There is the constant feeling that I'm missing great moment after great moment. What sustains me is those few times that everything lines up, that I lock focus on a runner and stick with them and they share something raw and beautiful and honest. That makes it worth it every time.” 3
"What sustains me is those few times that everything lines up, that I lock focus on a runner and stick with them and they share something raw and beautiful and honest. That makes it worth it every time."
Post‑race, Garvin diligently seeks out individual runners to offer prints and request model releases, a laborious process yielding intentional, unaltered images, save for logo removal. Each singular moment conveys a sense of the runner’s deeper journey and all they have overcome to get there.

These images offer intense, spontaneous emotions devoid of artificiality or social media performance which resonate powerfully in a marketplace where consumers want to trust what they see. They reflect a consumer demand for authenticity, echoed in VisualGPS research showing that 88% of Americans value authentic visuals. In an era where nearly half of North Americans view brands negatively for using AI‑generated images of people, genuine expressions of human experience hold immense appeal. Garvin's photographs can serve as a mirror for viewers of all backgrounds and circumstances, inspiring them to confront their own challenges and embrace their potential. By witnessing these achievements of others, we gain inspiration to we see who we, too, can be.

[1] RunRepeat
[2] BBC
[3] My Modern Met
Connecting on Magic Island: A New Take for Brazilian Travel