Dewey Nicks: Strong is Beautiful

The Photographer Serves Up a Slice of the Biggest Names in Women’s Tennis

Santa Barbara-based photographer and filmmaker Dewey Nicks today presents the culmination of his year-long project for the Women’s Tennis Association’s Strong is Beautiful campaign, a dazzling short featuring a split-screen rally between the likes of Serena Williams, Li Na and current world number one Caroline Wozniacki. In all, 40 of the biggest names in the women’s game were documented in Nicks’s dramatic smoke-hued film. “It takes so many elements to reach the top of such a competitive sport as tennis––strength of character, incredible discipline and will power," says Wozniacki. "For me, Strong is Beautiful was able to capture the inner strength of players in a beautiful way.” Shot with a 600-frames-per-second Phantom EFX camera, in temperatures over 100ºF, the stars were captured fresh from battle in between rounds at tournaments across the US. Seeking to champion each player’s unique strengths, Nicks highlighted their signature strokes in slow motion. “There are things your eye doesn’t perceive,” he explains. “Once you slow it down you realize how extraordinary the shift of weight or position of the racket is.” Proclaiming it to be the best project he has ever worked on, the enthusiastic Nicks held nothing back, even taking a ball to the neck in the effort to get the perfect shot.


Indoor court, Cincinnati, Ohio; hospitality tent, Indian Wells, California; GMT Studios, Culver City, California.

Athletes’ ages

Combined grand slam titles
30 (Serena Williams: 13; Venus Williams: 7; Maria Sharapova: 3; Kim Clijsters 4; Francesca Schiavone 1, Li Na: 1; Ana Ivanovic: 1).

Number of balls used

Invisible opponents
Lobster ball machine, athletes’ own hitting partners, and a brazen (ex-UCLA tennis player) producer hand-feeding balls.

Service speed
130 mph.

Tennis kit 
Athletes' own rackets and shoes. Serena did the whole shoot while wearing a boot on her foot as a result of a post-Wimbledon 2010 injury.

Water consumed 
360 bottles

“Night Jogger” by Those Darlings; Johnny Thunders; Green Day (requested by Serena Williams).

Dust particulates 
One kilo each of various colored pigment; chalk dust and diamond dust.

Six captured in slow motion.

Time for the dust to settle 
Three minutes.

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Conversations (3)

  • Phoneman
    Great job! Artistry in motion.
    • Posted By Phoneman
    • October 09, 2012 at 10:44AM
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  • MateoJon Hair
    I had fin doing hair on this shoot. Serena looked awesome. Dewey captured some beautiful images. Celebrity HairStylist - MateoJon Hair.
    • Posted By MateoJon Hair
    • May 16, 2012 at 2:26PM
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  • Doug Marlowe
    Once was interesting - multiple times of a ball, covered in colored dust, was redundant. Perhaps each vignette could have been a different ball-shaped object: water balloon, onion, apple, peach, squishy globe, Pensy Pinkie, etc... The facial expression of the player and the effect of smashing such artifacts would have blended art, movement and humor into what is all too often a lightning fast moment of awe.
    • Posted By Doug Marlowe
    • December 18, 2011 at 8:17AM
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