"There was no way in hell I could lose if I ran up the wall and broke a beer bottle over my head. In my mind I had won, to me it was done. The guy announced the winner, and he said the other dude's name. I was sure I had won, but sometimes the bloodiest guy doesn't win."

— Cole Manson (Johnny Uta), 2nd, Air Guitar Finals, Sneeky Dees Club, Toronto

In 2nd: The Face of Defeat, Sandy Nicholson documents the competitors who are forgotten about and under-celebrated – the second-place finishers.

Nicholson visited a range of fierce Canadian competitions, including the Air Guitar Finals, the Dance Sport Championships, rodeos, a spelling bee, a hamburger-eating contest and The Pillow Fight League. Each event draws an expected slice of a specific subculture, whether it’s overenthusiastic parents mouthing letters or spiky-haired punk rockers screaming for an encore.

Nicholson gives the viewer a front row seat to the intensity of the match and the subsequent pride, disappointment, anger, and disbelief of the runner-ups, taking their photographs immediately after their losses. Their emotions are nearly tangible, with sweat dripping off of brows, fingers blistered, eyes dark-circled, and fake smiles plastered to the almost-winner's face.

The 2nd place portraits range from hilarious to humiliating to heartbreaking. Each is accompanied by the loser's own words, inspiring a sense of empathy from the loser in all of us.

— Hilary Moss

Hilary Moss is a freelance journalist covering arts and culture in Paris.


2nd: The Face of Defeat
by Sandy Nicholson
Hardcover: 128 pages
12.7 x 10.2 in
Publisher: Magenta Publishing for the Arts
ISBN: 978-0973973945
Buy on Amazon