Jasmin Shah’s Impromptu “Team” Portraits of World Cup Soccer Fans
Chicago-based photojournalist Jasmin Shah spends a lot of time outside of Chicago, finding ways to tell visual stories about her trips, and stretching her creative and technical skills. She’s been to India five times within the last five years, as well as Ethiopia, Mexico, Tonga and Brazil mostly for Operation Smile, a children’s medical charity, as well as for personal projects. Shah just returned from another trip to Brazil, this time to celebrate her passion for soccer and to challenge herself with an ambitious personal project.
Before she left for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Shah brainstormed photo ideas about what it was she was excited to see. Shah says via email, “I was excited for the fan diversity I knew I’d be able to capture—in cultures, races and vivid colors.” She decided to re-create the commemorative 11-player starting lineup photo taken before each match – two rows, with six players standing in the back, and five players crouching in front. During the pre-game buildup, Shah gathered and posed groups of 11 fans from various countries. For all of the photos she used available light and her 5D Mark III with a 50mm lens. She had to keep gear to a minimum since she was inside the stadium and did not have a press pass.
But equipment was the least of her worries. Trying to corral and pose exactly 11 people from the same country proved to be the biggest challenge. “There’d be too few, so I’d have to go grab more…while keeping the already assembled fans from wandering off. Or there’d be too many (excited passersby would jump in, thinking it must be an “official” photo of some kind) and I’d have to urge them out.” Out of the 10 group shots, only one fell short of a full 11 “players.” Before USA’s match against Ghana, dressed in full USA fan gear, Shah ran to the Ghanian side of the stadium and asked some fans to come out to the concourse with her for the shot. She lost a few on the way – but that shot, she says is her favorite of the series.
Fans loved her idea once they figured out what she was doing, Shah says. On a few occasions, fans assisted her by wrangling their “teammates” into the lineup. For the most part, Shah played both photographer and coach, shouting over excited fans.
Shah self-funded her trip to Brazil, as well as tickets for all 4 USA soccer games. (Sidenote: Shah purchased her tickets from fellow USA fans and all for face value!). In addition to personal work, she also shot for Howler, a US-based quarterly soccer magazine, regularly uploading snaps to their Instagram. Her primary photographic goal was to shoot the crowds and capture the exciting 2014 FIFA World Cup atmosphere. “The chants, the flags, the scarves and face paint, the march to the stadium, and the drinking (cheerfully and nervously) that leads to the unruliness…they’re all part of the collective excitement.” Her self-assigned project, she says, has given her both production experience (“talk about an exercise in patience and persistence!”) and confidence.