As an ex-employee of a popular chain of bookmakers, Big Dream by Tim Bowditch particularly resonates with me. Watching punters meticulously study the racing forms, making notes as they go, individual patterns start to form for the different types of gambler. Some keep to themselves – studious and thorough. Others discuss their chosen riders to gauge how their peers might bet.
In his series, Big Dream, London-based photographer Tim Bowditch has captured the crowd at the Keirin races. The group, predominantly male, refer to their newspapers (equivalent to the Racing Post), completely absorbed in percentages and prices.
The velodrome is made of concrete – clean and sparse. Each photograph holds a sense of waiting, or suspense, as though the subject is holding his breath. This is a familiar emotional pattern associated with gambling. The build-up prior to the event, the anxiety mixed with excitement during its execution, and the soaring highs or crashing lows that follow the result.
Keirin is a form of track cycling that originated in Japan in 1948. It became an Olympic sport in 2000. Although popular, Bowditch explains: “￼The photographs depict a lot of empty space. The space can clearly hold a lot of people, but there just aren’t that many people in the space. I’m sure the space fills up sometimes. Weekends maybe. Special events, cup races. Somewhere else in the velodrome there are more people, crowds of people watching and betting on the races. Maybe people in couples or groups, talking or laughing or shouting for their favourite rider. But in these photographs there are just these clusters of men, alone.”
Interestingly, gambling is illegal in Japan, but there are some exceptions and Keirin is one of them.