I’m sure there are plenty of documentary photographers for whom going to Brazil to capture the World Cup would be something of a dream, but as far as I’m concerned none of them even come close to the exceptional Jane Stockdale. After having her application to photograph the crowds watching the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow turned down three times, she decided to take matters into her own hands, and jumped on a plane to Brazil to shoot audiences there instead.
From chaotic favelas to a packed Copacabana beach, and a hospital’s A&E department to an old peoples’ home, Watching the World Cup shows the football-obsessed masses in a fantastically vivid light. We caught up with Jane, fresh off the plane, to find out more and to ask what you do when you’re in a bar full of Brazilians who have just watched their team lose 7-1….
How did this project come about?
Years ago when I was studying at Edinburgh College of Art I shot a project about crowds. The idea was super simple. I ignored the pop/rock/sports star and just shot the crowds all over Scotland, from the rugby to football, Pantera to Boyzone, the BAFTAs to the Scottish General Elections. This was such a laugh to collaborate on and I loved shooting it.
During the Olympics in 2012 I documented various events all over London; the energy was amazing. In the Olympic stadium the crowd hit 120 decibels cheering, screaming, shouting but we only saw small clips of the spectators. I couldn’t believe no-one was really focusing on documenting them.
The World Cup is all about winning and losing, and this project came about through losing as I really wanted to shoot the crowds idea on home turf at Glasgow 2014. I applied to Creative Scotland three times with this idea – but got turned down three times. The second time I was turned down I listened to LOSER by Beck, then just decided to go shoot the same idea at the World Cup in Brazil. I spoke to a few pals, and an hour later booked a flight.
I’m not a huge football fan, but I love the World Cup. Where better to shoot crowds than at the World Cup in Brazil?
How did you go about it?
The idea for this project was to document different sides to the World Cup. So for each game we hung out with different groups of pals, mates, friends, families and communities across Brazil to shoot their experience. From an old folks’ home, to hanging out in the A&E department at Sao Paulo’s central Hospital das Clinicas where the medics turned the staff room into a World Cup room, and from a farm in the sticks to Copacabana beach; for each match we hung out with a totally different crowd of people and documented their experience of watching the World Cup.
What was the process of working on it like?
Amazing. I loved it. We met so many incredible people. We really wanted to avoid shooting typical clichéd shots of photogenic, face-painted fans, and document other sides and realities of the World Cup.
For example, Complexo da Maré is a huge sprawling favela in Rio and home to over 100,000 people. Since March, it’s been occupied by 3000 heavily armed soldiers in preparation for the tournament. I think its really important to also document the World Cup experience of the community in Maré. They had some of the best decorated streets in the entire city.
What was it like when Brazil lost 7-1?
Ouch! We were in Complexo de Alemão for this game. For the first half-hour everyone was just sitting in silence totally shell-shocked. At 5-0 we were a bit worried that things might kick off (two weeks previously there was a shoot out and three people died). At 6-0 we bought a round of drinks for everyone in a bar and by 7-0 we were all jumping, cheering and hugging. At game over, the favela erupted in fireworks and a massive Baile Funk party – everyone forgot about the football. I had to explain loads of times to everyone I’m Scottish, not German!
What made you decide to make a website to house the images?
It was really spontaneous. Photos from this project were being exhibited in a mix of group shows and publications. Then my friends emailed me to say they were loving the photos and asked what I was doing with them. They also sent me a link to a photo essay on the New York Times website to check out. I loved it, and five minutes later we decided to create an online home for this project, called Watching the World Cup.
My mate Damian has written extensively on Brazil, and co-authored a book called Culture is our Weapon so he wrote the text. Enjoythis designed and coded the site at super-fast lightning speed. I edited it on the plane back and we launched when I landed.
How do you feel now when you look back on the images?
Nothing but love. Our thank you list for this project is massive and was great to collaborate with, and meet so many amazing people. I ’d love to shoot this idea now at Rio 2016.