Daniel Belet has been photographing street football teams around the world since 1995
Taken in Argentina, France, Switzerland, Madagascar and Morocco, these photographs speak to the universal message of football.
- Ruby Boddington
- 4 August 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Like many photographers, Daniel Belet was drawn to the medium through the magic of the dark room. He was a teenager at the time and admired the work of people like Henri Cartier Bresson and Raymond Depardon, “photographers who had the ability to reveal the real,” he recalls. He was interested in photography’s ability to, as Beaudelaire says, “extract this mysterious beauty that lies in life unintentionally.” It also helped him to overcome his shyness, he explains.
A Franco-Swiss, Daniel was born in Rodez, France and now lives and works in Zürich with his family, practising photography and working as a retoucher as well. He gained a degree in communication in Grenoble and bought his first camera with his student loan. “I gathered experience working as a retoucher in different laboratories and photolithography, at the time when technology transitioned from analog to digital,” he recalls. And has had a fruitful career working with photographers and art directors in the fields of fashion and advertising alongside his own practice ever since.
When it comes to his own work Daniel’s approach is wide-ranging, combining slick commercial photography with personal projects. “Photography being a real paradigm, I like both reportage photography capable of being part of history as well as the more plastic work of [commercial] photographers,” he tells us, explaining this amalgamation of styles present in his portfolio. In the past, he’s documented the landscape of the Australian outback, created cinematic portraits while travelling through the Andes and captured beautiful panoramic vistas around the world.
“I will describe myself as a jack-of-all-trades in photographic visual expression, especially not wanting to be put in a drawer,” Daniel says, something which is made clear when flicking through his work. “This medium of expression today has so many possibilities with digital technology that it would be a shame to limit its expression.”
It was one series in particular which drew us to his work, however, for its assimilation with our penchant for all things football-related. Titled Athleta Magazine, it sees Daniel documenting various street football teams around the world, and is a project he’s been working on since 1995 when it began on a beach in Morocco by chance. “I came across these young people playing street football and I wanted to immortalise them as football professionals teams posing for the official pre-match photo,” he recalls. The project then continued in Madagascar, after which Daniel endeavoured to add to the project any time he stumbled upon another team in another location.
Daniel has been passionate about football since a young age, explaining his interest in this topic, telling us: “I have seen the universal message of this sport and the dreams it can carry as a child.” The series is, therefore, a testament to that universal message, depicting people from across the globe united by this singular love: football. The portraits are in turn joyful, the camaraderie and friendship of each group beaming through, no matter how young or old they are or what resources are available to them. While their clothing perhaps changes, there is similar emotion imbuing all of the imagery, no matter what year it was taken.
The project is, of course, continuing as Daniel continues to travel the globe, he tells us and he plans to turn it into a book some day. “I would like to extend it to major footballing nations like England, which saw the birth of the sport, or Brazil, as well as to smaller countries that are nonetheless football lovers,” he says. “Children practice football all around the world in every place, we could have a panorama of these children across the planet which would be a great opportunity to highlight them.”
Salta, Argentina, 2015
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.