During the World Cup in Brazil two years ago I went out there to photograph fans watching the matches on the beaches of Rio and the streets of São Paulo. This time around I decided to stay a bit more local and figured that London had more nationalities living there than any other city in the world so set out to photograph them watching the Euros, I wanted the project to be a celebration of diversity in the city. I contacted Anwar Uddin at the football supporters Federation who offered to fund the project from their fans for diversity fund, Fans For Diversity is a campaign run in partnership by Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation, which engages with supporters from across English football to help target a number of fan initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion across the professional and non-league game.
The project was always intended to be photographed in the pubs and social clubs of as many different nations as possible, in my early research there were places for every nation, however I was not getting a lot of response by e-mailing places and with a project like this access is important, I wasn’t keen on just wandering in as a stranger to a local with a camera and start shooting, so where I could I made contact first, mostly by phone on the day to tell the landlord or chairman about what I was doing, failing that I turned up, got a beer and met fans during the game.
I learned from shooting football fans in Brazil that to get the best shots you really need to get involved, in Brazil there were a lot of sports photographers shooting fans from a distance with long lens, I found it best to grab a beer and get amongst it with the loudest fans around, this applied and worked well in London. It can be a bit intimidating at first but when football is on people really don’t care about their photograph being taken, it’s just a matter of waiting for the right reactions. The only time I really had any problems was in a Spanish bar, a guy behind the bar asked why I would want to take peoples photograph and told me not to, I put this down to the fact they were loosing to Italy so I could understand his grumpiness, I headed back to bar where street celebrations were ensuing!
I found a good technique of standing directly underneath the TV in a bar (the easiest place to stand during a football match) and waiting for something to happen in the game, It’s quite funny watching a match purely on people’s reactions, I would sometimes stream the game on my phone so I could see what was happening. I think during the tournament I shot for 23 match days, on some occasions especially early on covering 2-3 games a day, this was mostly done on an oyster card, a pocket of cash (a lot of the social clubs were cash only) and a camera and lens in a backpack, a lot of the time I had to leave games early to make the next one as travelling between some places in London could take a good hour on the tube. During the final I was in Stockwell with the Portuguese, but after Ronaldo got injured I decided the better chances for images may lie with the French, I got the tube to Great Portland Street where the French fans had invited me down, they had booked out a huge nightclub with a big screen, fair to say I got some good shots of them looking distraught after the suprising result.
happened in the middle of the tournament and although during the football it wasn’t hugely spoken of except the odd comment of England out of Europe twice in a week, shooting this project heightened my consciousness of how hugely important important different cultures and communities are to London, for me it’s one of the main things that makes London such a great City.
It was really interesting seeing how the different sets of fans watched the football, from the different chants to the different drinks, from 100+ Iceland fans in a South London pub doing their now famous “Viking war chant” to Polish fans singing along to a trumpet playing fan in the Polish club in Hammersmith. I always tried to stick to the local tipple, Sagres in the Portuguese cafe, Lech in the Polish club, Guiness with the Irish and some very strong Belgium beers! By far the most sophisticated were the French, who on a couple of occasions had booked out the Clapham grand theatre and enjoyed charcuterie boards, wine and beers while enjoying the game!
During the tournament some of the photography I did was run on the FSF website and social media as part of the Kick it out campaign to promote messages of diversity amongst different supporters across Europe and in October we will do an exhibition of the images.
The Exhibition will run until October 20th at Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, London, E2 6HG.
Monday to Friday: 9am to 10pm
Weekend: 10am to 2pm
Bank Holidays Closed