In Conversation with EL PAIS.
How did your relationship with FCB start and what kind of feedback do you get from the club?
We had been working with an Advertising Agency in Barcelona (Caldas Naya) for a few years on some award winning advertising projects & when FC Barcelona became a client of theirs we started to work on some projects with them initially for Barca TV as well as Membership & Ticketing Campaign’s for the club.
The Creative Director liked our style of “Iconic” portraits we had just shot with Native American Indians for an editorial project in the USA and we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to shoot with some of the International Star Players in this style, the pictures were very well received and from these images it grew into a Marketing campaign, so its been quite an organic & evolutionary process.
I think the work we do is unique at this level, the fact that FC Barcelona is a club owned by the fans,Means not only has the work we have produced been used for the traditional purposes of marketing and advertising for club and sponsors, but it is also a way of giving something back to the fans.
This has always been our policy when working on assignments to also find something that is unique and of relevance to the fans which ties in with the philosophy at Barcelona
"Més que un club".
So over the last 5 years, we have started to gain an every growing following from the fans of what we are doing with FCB. Each year something new seems to grow out of these opportunities . For example, we started to shoot documentary football (pitch side) and with this not being our usual assignment style,we decided to turn that into something more and find “Art” on the pitch . We didn’t have to work under the same pressures as a Sports journalist Photographer, so we were able to plan what it was we wanted to achieve from each opportunity we had to shoot a live match .
Actually what we started to see was a parallel between Art & Sport, both in terms of the images we captured and the “Theatre” that was taking place on the pitch . We had recently worked on a project based on the works of Caravaggio and the stills we were capturing on the pitch had the same quality both in terms of the composition and light. The term Chiaroscuro “ out of the darkness - Light” This was the atmosphere in the stadium.
I used the word “Iconic” to describe some of our portraits and this is the other parallel with Art we see on the football field, which is the “Religious” context . Many players are idolized like saints by the fans and you see the Athletes praying on the pitch before a match or thanking God when they score a goal. you could argue that the theatre,this drama is a battle,and for the fans a battle of good versus evil.
One of the art projects we produced with FCB in 2010 was called “In-Adoration” where we actual made Religious Icon portraits of players in Gilt-Gold frames and gave them to the fans after the match to see what there response would be and to photograph their reactions.
What is the idea behind the vintage cards project?
We are always researching,looking at new concepts, whether that inspiration comes from Painting,Sculpture,Film or Photography & one our team had started to collect original vintage cards both of Football and Cricket players.
So we thought this would be a great idea to try and develop with the work we were doing at Barcelona. What fascinated us particularly was that if you look back in 50 years time at these images they themselves will of become Antique Vintage in their own right, so there is a double paradox with this project using current images we have taken of the players.
The aim for us has also been to create what we hope will be a lasting legacy of a body of work people will be able to look back at and view as a slice of history, which irrelevant of your own personal loyalties, undeniably documents one of the greatest teams of all time in club football.
what's in sport that appeals to you in artistic terms?
All Sport is an Art Form in one sense. Its a Performance, sometimes you don’t really know what is going to happen, but one often see’s, Grace,Poetry and Magic in the sporting arena. Something exceptional may happen and this is true of all Art . You can have a pretty good idea of what you think is going to happen or what it is you wish to produce within your photographs or sculpture , but then the exceptional moment occur’s and you capture that and it can come just out of nothing, its Alchemy. The same is true if you were to ask a player “How are you going to score a goal today ?” They can’t answer that question, the moment of genius will present itself.
Is creative art helping to shape a more modern image for clubs?
When we have been producing “Bespoke” almost if you like “luxury” projects for Barcelona, its certainly something new and different away from the formulaic advertising you see so much of with the large corporate brands . Advertising certainly within football has tended to be “Athlete/Warrior/Hero” , you don’t often see something new . But alot of people have now started to follow the trend we developed using documentary imagery within advertising,possibly because it is more real and the fans can identify with that.
With trends in media ever changing, in particular the digital age, I think people are certainly looking for new ways to express their identity and connect with their market audience .
We try to balance both aspects of this, we have a huge online community that follows the work that we do.But as we are constantly bombarded with information via online TV ,web & social network, we have found an ever increasing number of people still want to appreciate something tactile, like a Beautiful Book, something you can keep for ever, it has its own soul. Definitely those with intelligence within Sports marketing can see this.
Thats why the work we have produced has been so successful for Fc Barcelona and for the fans in helping develop a unique identity that fits with the whole philosophy behind their sporting heritage.
What's the greatest work of art you have seen in a football pitch?
They call it “The Beautiful Game” and we have been privileged to witness many moments of “Artistic” Genius on the field. One immediately has to mention the unique talent of Lionel Messi, as this is Artistry,Pure Poetry in motion at the highest level ,week in week out, the likes of which we may never see again.
But working with and supporting Manchester United, I have also witnessed Eric Cantona’s “Gift from God” indescribable Talent and this is a man who absolutely understands he is an Artist in the true sense of the word. During his time at the club, Cristiano also produced so many memorable moments of genius.
what's next for you in the sports field?
As its London 2012, we are currently working with some clients on projects for this event and we have shot the campaign for the Euro 2012 Spanish Selection, which will be published shortly.
Of course we will keep working with FC Barcelona and personally I would like to spread our wings across the water and work on some projects with he New York Cosmos as this is another club that has the heritage and understanding that we could develop similar Art based projects with .