You can see how time passed through this court. Canvases from games hung from the ceiling, though you cannot see them in the photo – a testimony to their perseverance. It moved me deeply, like the vindication of people who love sports and once felt excluded. Looking at the photo, you can see that story.
ROSARIO, Argentina ꟷ In 2021, I launched a project called Sport Friendly, a photographic portrayal of athletes’ sexual diversity, making up inclusive teams. I exhibited the project at the South American Youth Games 2022 Fan Fest. More than 1 million people from around the world had an opportunity to see my work.
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Sport Friendly offers a collective vision of inclusive sports. It’s not photojournalism. I view this project as an artistic work. Compiling the images into an album featuring teams which embrace sexual diversity, I gave strength and light to this movement. Along the way, I saw how each person – regardless of sexual orientation or identity, gender, or physical condition – held their place on the court. Shining a light on these values in sports interested me because of my own history.
Throughout childhood and school, I never found my place in sports. I questioned the binary in sports where teams remained divided by men and women, and further by discipline. In my country men played soccer and women played basketball or some other sport. As I immersed myself into the world of inclusive sports, I suddenly felt part of something.
My first exposure came through the amateur, inclusive sports team Yaguaretés from Rosario in the Santa Fe province. Watching them perform on the field, full of diversity and welcoming each person, I felt fantastic and deeply desired to photograph them. The project began.
In time, I toured the Argentine provinces of Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Buenos Aires, Tucumán, Salta, Mendoza, Corrientes, and the Federal Capital. I quickly became comfortable around the teams and felt like one of them. Photographing each player for the project, I highlighted them with my flash, showcasing their features and offering them a spotlight. I wanted to make them visible; to work on something positive and non-discriminatory. My goal from the outset was to portray each players’ power on the field.
In the capital of the province of Tucumán, I spent the day photographing the women’s and men’s soccer teams. After the session ended, we went to an old bar nearby. A large group of people gathered at the bar, despite the tremendous heat. We ate pizza and drank beer. On that beautiful night, after a day of shooting, the team members shared their stories, surprising me with their vulnerability. I knew I was doing something powerful.
The project continued throughout Argentina, and I photographed subjects in more than 12 sports including basketball, soccer, rugby, volleyball, martial arts, and paddle tennis. The diversity of the sports themselves led to a hashtag for each team which they use on social media, making their bravery and actions more visible. From the lens of my camera to their shares and hashtags, we raise awareness about problems in communities. We show how sports – in all of its iterations – can lead to positive, transformative action in society.
Since that first moment of inspiration, more than 500 athletes have passed through my camera lens. Each and every one of them belong to the LGBTQ+ sport collective – formed in response to discrimination and violence in sports. Together, they create free and safe spaces.
The very last photo I took for Sport Friendly became my favorite one. The athlete stands confidently, posing in a dress he wears when he goes out on weekends, over his uniform. The bold red dress with red flowers feels like butterfly wings emerging from his volleyball clothing. In his worn-out shoes, he stands on the court. Colors explode from the image – traces of yellow and blue paint on the floor and a wall washed in green. I showed it as it was.
In the image, you can see how time passed through this court. Canvases from games hung from the ceiling, though you cannot see them in the photo – a testimony to their perseverance. It moved me deeply, like the vindication of people who love sports and once felt excluded. Looking at the photo, you can see that story.
All along this journey, I experienced profound moments at training sessions, photo shoots, or socializing with the athletes. I will never forget those moments – sitting in a bar on a corner in a neighborhood where photos and colors from the LGBTQ+ community mingled on the walls alongside images of soccer players.
Sharing a pint, I felt incredible, listing to their histories and the stories of their teams, while eating pizza. These moments inspired many takes that made it into the album – a project I remain incredibly proud of.
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