English Football Culture

A Brighton & Hove Albion football fan at Torquay United 1st January 1997. © Stewart Weir 1997

Prior to the beginning of Brighton & Hove Albion football club’s 1995/96 season I was asked to produce the action images for the club programme. In July 95′ I approached the club about the idea to produce a behind the scenes photo documentary about the club and the answer was yes.

I began documenting behind the scenes events within the club’s home The Goldstone Ground, on the training pitch and at home and away games. Within weeks of starting the photo documentary the club fell into a crisis both on and off the pitch. I was eventually banned from entering the ground but still managed to get into every game with the help of the club’s staff who were against their tyrannical employers.

The story that evolved over 2 seasons from 1995 to 1997 was beyond anything Hollywood could have dreamed up. I was lucky enough to fall into a story and document it in a way that had never been done before about an English football club. A book called More Than Ninety Minutes resulted and a series of exhibitions throughout the UK. I’m presently looking at the idea of doing a 2nd book of images from the archive of 7,000 negatives (the image above is unpublished). 200 images made it into the first book so I have a lot of editing to do.

Fourteen years later the club has a new owner and a new world class stadium. But the story began in 1995 and was it not for the club’s fans back then they would not have a team to support now.

 

 

Ueno Park, Tokyo

Ueno Park, Tokyo. The Sleeping City. ©Stewart Weir 2002

I never saw the cat. I don’t know why but it wasn’t until I saw the negative that the cat made his presence known and made this image one of my favorites.

I find it very difficult to edit my own work but easy to edit others. I’m far to emotionally attached to my work and so battle daily with making a decision. Editing is part of the photographers daily routine whether its looking at contact sheets, a computer screen or in your head. Sometimes I’ve feel almost OCD about it, churning away like a hamster on a wheel.

Some images just jump straight out and grab you like a lunatic and they become burnt into your memory and never forgotten. When this happens you have an image that will stand the test of time. When I saw the cat thats exactly what happened.

The Sleeping City

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Images © Stewart Weir 2002

Tokyo June 2002. Covering the Football World Cup finals for Olympus CamerasEsquire and the now closed Katz Pictures. I was continuing my long term photo story about English football fans but had plenty of spare time during my 3 week stay in Japan. I found a cheap hostel mostly used by back packers and commuting workers but was quite a few miles outside the center of Tokyo. I had agreed a good fee with Olympus and Esquire but it included all my expenses so whilst I could have stayed in a hotel I chose to opt for the cheapest place I could find. Took me a few nights to get used to sleeping on a mat on the floor in a very tiny single room that I could touch both sides of the wall comfortably with both hands and feet. Shooting assignments isn’t necessarily the luxury most people think. Cutting the costs is essential to maximize profit. Accommodation is usually going to be the single biggest expense unless you fancy couch surfing.

Tokyo is one of my favorite cities to photograph. Between World Cup shoots I walked the streets in Tokyo and quickly realized how tired people were. They slept on the Metro to and from work but also during the day anywhere they could find. Shooting abroad requires initiative to shoot additional stock and where possible a story. I had time to spare so shot an on spec story. No guarantee of getting paid for it I spoke to Katz Pictures who liked the idea and offered to pay for the film, processing and contact sheets. The Sleeping City story was syndicated and published in several magazines.

Story behind the image – Plaça de la Universitat, Barcelona

Plaça de la Universitat, Barcelona late in the evening. Just because it’s raining means nothing of your shooting a travel feature. You land in your destination and only have a few days or maybe a week to get what’s needed so time is your enemy and so should tiredness. I would work from before dawn through to late in the evening every day. Your maybe working with a writer or maybe your on your own and maybe a location that isn’t tourist friendly so you may need a ‘fixer’ (someone you hire to interpret and who knows the region well). As with all things preparation and research is the key. As with all things photographic expect the unexpected and plan for every eventuality you can think of.

I had walked through Plaça de la Universitat many times but never seen an image worth taking. The rain changed everything that night and turned a rather bland lump of pavement into something special. For me its the lighting and the reflections of the wet pavements and of course the walker with his red bag that creates a focal point. Red umbrellas are out and red bags are in! Does this work as a travel shot? For some magazines yes and some no. Understanding the flavor of who your shooting for is absolutely essential and shooting to their brief in your style is the key to success.

Story behind the image – New York Portrait

New York had recently banned smoking in bars, cafes and restaurants etc. and I was shooting a story for Katz Pictures to syndicate to magazines about the city becoming smoke free. Standing opposite the Rockefeller Center on West 49th Street I was first attracted by the American flag in the window and was standing around waiting for something to happen. This guy stopped a few feet away from me looking across the road so I moved sideways and asked if he would mind me taking a photo. He said “fine” so I snapped several shots and this is my favorite. Maybe its my imagination but this guy just looks so New York.. he’s a cliche of what I think people think New Yorkers should look like..

Does the viewer of the image understand what the photographer is trying to say or show? In fact does the photographer even know what they are photographing when they click the shutter or does what they have taken become apparent when editing?

I didn’t really think much about the portrait immediately after I took it. I knew I thought he looked ‘cool’ and very American but it was only after I saw a print that I felt it was a strong image that summed up the feeling of New York. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe for most viewers its just ok and they dont feel it like I do.