The joy of the jump
Published: August 19th, 1997. Photograph: Alan Betson
Aphotograph can be worth a thousand words – or, like today’s delightful image from the summer of 1997, summon to mind just one. Jump. Actually, if you consult a real- world dictionary – if you can even find one – you’ll find it takes quite a few words to describe the action which has been so dramatically captured by this photograph, part of the portfolio which won Alan Betson the press photographer of the year award for 1997.
“To spring into the air; to leap, especially to spring free from the ground or other base by the muscular action of feet and legs; to move energetically, haphazardly or irregularly; to undergo a vertical or lateral displacement, or a sudden sharp change; to show eagerness; to bustle with activity; to rise suddenly in rank or status; to start out or forward, usually used with ‘ off’ . . .”
The word also turns up in an unusually large and varied number of common phrases. It’s something we human creatures really like to do. Jump aboard. Jump over. Jump to conclusions. Jump bail. Jump ship. Jump the gun, jump the queue, jump the shark. Or, as seems most appropriate to our photo, jump for joy.
The boy who is about to make a splash in Ringsend Basin is named as Anthony Andrews from Ringsend. In the lower half of the frame is the facade of Boland’s Mill – historically resonant though not, even nowadays, a place many of us would associate with the careless joy of summer swims.
Joy is at the core of this picture. It’s in the feathery blue of the summer sky and the wild, scrawny exuberance of the boy’s arms and legs. Against the solid bulk of the mill building, he looks as free as a bird yet also, somehow, fragile. Hence the trainers, to protect his feet from smacking into the water.
He’s calling out in triumph as he leaps. We may not know what he’s saying, but this magical image shouts: “Summer! We’re going to get one this year! We are! Let’s jump in!”