So I got a call recently, my agents had shown my Rangers ‘Life In The 3rd‘ photo series to a client, and now they were enquiring if I’d be interested in a reportage assignment to photograph urban street football, in Glasgow, using a smartphone camera. Sure. Sounds great. As a Scotland-based photographer there would surely be loads of street football around I could go shoot…
So here was the deal, I’d be loaned an HTC One smartphone, and using the camera function and all the nick nacks it entails, filters, panoramic shooting mode where it stitches images together, and a little 24 frame video snippet called HTC Zoe, I’d go out in the streets and photograph raw, jumpers for goalposts, non-organised, non-amateur, non-team football. Easy peasey. The images would be then be used to publicise the tie up between HTC smartphones becoming the official smartphone of UEFA for the next three years. The project consisted of 11 photographers in 9 countries, who were all working to the same brief and the photographs they shoot would form an online photographic slideshow ‘Inside Street Football’ for HTC/UEFA, they’d be shared around on HTC social media, and also form a touring exhibition. (You can read more about the ‘Inside Street Football’ and HTC One smartphone project here, illustrated by another of my photographs from Glasgow, and here with comments by another photographer involved – Guy Isherwood who was photographing for the project in London).
Sounded great. Until I went out on the streets with the camera. Where are all the kids? Where’s all the spontaneous fun and football I remember as a kid? Where were the goals, and never mind the goalposts, where were the playing fields. I drove and drove, around streets, through neighbourhoods, walked though parks, down dead-end cul de sacs. Playing fields everywhere, with goalposts, but no kids, no adults, no one, maybe one woman with a dog. It didn’t help that the weather was cold, not the week for playing outdoors.
But like any professional photographer, and this is what I’m paid for, you find it, you make the assignment come together. I phoned people who perhaps would have a better idea about where folks play football these days, I asked around about goalposts painted on walls, I followed leads, I go to a likely location and look, ask questions, and slowly bit by bit it all came together.
On one of the days I was shooting there was glorious late afternoon light, and I headed for the Red Road flats area, in Balornock district of Glasgow, an area known for it’s towering high rise apartment blocks, once the highest in Europe. And there at the foot of the tower block, surrounded by CCTV cameras, and metal-boarded up windows were four young boys from Pakistan playing football. Permission to photograph was sought, introductions made, and they continued with their football as I put the HTC One through it’s paces, a little bit of photography, then using the Zoe function mode, some panoramics stitched together…trying it all out, seeing what it could do, what the camera was capable of, what it could handle in terms on contrasty low level spring light. I’d shoot into the sun, up to the sky, with the sun behind me, trying for action, for portraits, seeing what it could handle.
The above four frames are from that shoot, each kid taking a turn in goals as his mates shot penalties at him. I liked the different stances of each kid as he awaited the shot coming at him.
After a few days of shooting in the streets I had enough, kids in parks, Asian gentleman kicking a ball against goalposts painted on a wall whilst a garage changed his car tyre, goal posts in underground car parks, young men playing in the street before moving on to a 5-a-side pitch. I got a broad range of people, of situations. It’s all out there if you look for it, if you do your work. All in all I got it in (HTC) One.