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Soccer boys, a photography and humanity lesson

Published May 17th, 2012

There it was, my old Nikon F55, my first SLR, crying for film in a dusty bag. It also contained a few unexposed Kodak T-Max 100 film. They were three years out of date, stored in a closet. I said to myself: "I might as well use them, what's the risk?". So I took that with me, two lenses (a 20mm and a 50mm) and went for a walk with it, looking for a subject to shoot. Strangely, using film again made me feel like each photo was more precious, that it shouldn't be misused, that it should show something, something important. And then I found my subject, in the park near my home.

Soccer players

I saw a few kids playing football (soccer) on an old field. There were as many nationalities as players on that field, and I myself carried two of them. I went closer, looked at the kids playing. They saw me, and spotted my camera. They yelled "M'sieur, vous venez prendre des photos ?!" ("Sir, are you coming to take pictures?"). I answer yes, if they didn't have a problem with it. They were more than happy to let me in. It took about 10 seconds. And then, I started shooting, watching the kids play, trying to compose good pictures, at least technically. I wanted to show how this kids could have fun together, for the only sake of living in the same neighborhood.



Something happened though. As I took pictures, the kids started talking to me even more. They asked why I was taking pictures, what I was doing to do with them. I told them I didn't really know, that I might try to make a project out of it. They were captivated by that idea.



I went into the field, and they started to show off, to show me how good players they were. One kid called me to take a picture of him when doing a "coup de ciseaux", actually quite hard to achieve. I was astonished by their willingness to show me their skills, to talk to me, to tell me their stories. They even organized a small world cup between the few of them, but they had a hard time making teams with countries... From what I got, they had to "big teams", subdivided in teams (mostly composed of one player) from Mexico, Poland, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Gabon, etc.



Then, they started to get tired. They slowed down, but they still wanted me to take pictures. So they organized a new game, just for the sake of it. Sun was going down, but light was still good. I had fun seeing them and shooting them, so did they. I'm sure they totally forgot about me the second they started shooting in the ball, but they still wanted to make sure I got this small move, this right pass or this goal.



I sat on the corner of the field for a few minutes, to let them finish their game. And I was thinking. I said to myself, those kids are amazing. To me, they represented what a society should be, as simple as this sounds. They were playing together, without according any importance to each other'origins, age or size. They let me in, even though I was way older than them and they didn't even know me before! They let me take pictures, which in 2011 was almost an exploit with kids... I was so grateful to them, so I wanted to pay them back.



I got a simple idea: I should take some portraits of them, print them, and bring them a few days later so they'd have a few good pictures of them from this evening. It was so pretentious of me, thinking I was making the gift. They did. With this.



And this.

Youth 2

And this.

Youth 3

And this.



When I got the roll developed, I was astonished by the quality and the simplicity of their portraits. They were natural, human beings at their best. No exaggeration, no will to "look good". Something I never would have achieved with adults, or at least not without a lot of work. For them, I only had to shoot once for each kid. The next week, I came back to offer them prints of their portraits. They were hysterical, but so thankful.

No guys, I am the one that thanks you, for you have remembered me what humanity can produce, and how photography can seize it and show it to the world. Thanks.

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Emmanuel Dubois  about 4 years ago

Thanks Gabriel, I greatly appreciate that :-)

Gabriel Matera Lins  about 4 years ago

Awsome story Emmanuel, really incredible. love the portraits and you have an astonishing skill with film photgraphy! :)

p.s nice brazil shirt in 4th photo ;)