Studio Firma’s latest shoot is a power-packed visual set that speaks at once to representation and determination. Shot in an ordinary gym and swimming pool,Limitless captures athlete Nemanja Tadic as he trains for the Paralympic games.
A beautifully cinematic video made with exclusive fitness footage, Limitless highlights an athlete’s everyday practice. In doing so, it also brings to light a possible blind spot for abled bodied communicators — the tendency of visual creators to frame people with disabilities as inherently “brave,” “courageous,” or “superhuman” because of their circumstance.
When seeking out the right model for their concept, Serbia-based Studio Fima duo Dijana Toliki and Marko Arsic were inspired by Tadic’s story of losing his leg to bone cancer at 7 years old. Rather than succumbing to despair, Tadic saw his misfortune as an opportunity to focus on overcoming obstacles. “Out of all of life’s difficult situations, I’ve learned numerous lessons and managed to always stay motivated for new challenges put in front of me. I still enjoy dispelling prejudices about myself and my disability,” Tadic shares.
Although impressed by Tadic’s maturity and spirit, when developing their approach, Toliki and Arsic were mindful of the media’s propensity to frame disabled athletes as fundamentally heroic and as such, chose to shoot Tadic engaging with more common athletic activities like training.
“Most often we notice great effort when it’s crowned with great success. But people rarely think about the great daily efforts of ordinary people who have added challenges,” Toliki explains. “For all of us, our only limit is ourselves.”
The filmmaking techniques utilized in Limitless include intentional camera movement, multiple focal lengths, color grading, and a narrative structure to mirror the themes of determination and self-discipline common to all people eager to achieve their goals. The camera movement stays tight on the subject, bringing the viewer into their world, suggesting an inner pre-game monologue. The use of static shots among shots that move conveys the emotional balance and calmness. Color grading is used to reinforce the everyday aspect of training with a muted palette that establishes a mood of normalcy. And the film’s structure intentionally introduces a few frames before revealing Tadic’s prosthetic leg to support the narrative of normalized disability, i.e. the viewer is introduced to the subject as an athlete rather than as a para-athlete.
“With a strong photo or film, we can awake and warm the souls of the people who are able to do something about bringing visibility to underrepresented people in our media,” Arsic expresses. We can look to great sets like Limitless for cinematic footage that expands the inclusive arena of representation in imagery and design.
See the full Limitless video on YouTube
Studio Firma is Serbian duo Dijana Toliki and Marko Arsic. They’re all about love, eating, traveling, and taking good photos. See their full collection here.