Jane Stockdale is a photographer we’ve championed again and again here It’s Nice That and, on multiple occasions, the focus of her work has been sport. From capturing cyclists with Rapha, Nascar drivers with Red Bull or the variety of athletes which make up the Kosovo Olympic team, her work is celebratory of every sportsperson out there.
Football specifically, aside from being the focus of several projects of hers, is also a huge passion of Jane’s, so needless to say she’s been having a whale of a time throughout this year’s dramatic competition. Four years ago, when Brazil was hosting the World Cup, Jane travelled there to capture the tournament through the eyes of the fans. The resulting series is packed full of drama, flipping between pure elation and devastation, truly telling the story of the country as they live out the agony and ecstasy of the World Cup. More than this, however, it’s an ode to football fans everywhere and the notion of fandom altogether. It celebrates those who make the game what it is, placing them at the epicentre of a month-long tournament they love so much.
Now, four years on, Jane has collaborated with graphic designer Patrick Fry and writer Damian Platt to turn the series into a book which you can preorder here. Below (off the back of a game which saw Brazil become the all-time highest World Cup scorers), we catch up with the photographer to hear more about the project as well as a bit about her time spent in Moscow during this year’s competition.
It’s Nice That: When and why did you decide to turn the project into a book?
Jane Stockdale: We LOVE the World Cup. The project Watching the World Cup documents the story of the World Cup in Brazil through the eyes of the fans. It captures a moment in time, and a shared experience, what better way to celebrate this than make a book.
Patrick and I had played with the idea of publishing a book back in 2014 and 2015, so it was always on our radar. Then a couple months ago Patrick set up his own publishing platform CentreCentre and asked if I was still interested… of course, I’d love to create a book!
It’s been a race against time to get this ready. I’ve been really busy, away on shoots back-to-back in Germany and Russia, so we sent this off to print from Moscow, the day before this World Cup began. I could hear football fans chanting and feel the energy in the air as we hit “Send to Print”, which for me, is always exciting and nerve-wracking anyway. So if there are any spelling mistakes, it’s all my fault!
Patrick Fry: CentreCentre creates books with an unexpected take on content. We want to cherish and preserve projects and collections that defy their genre. Jane’s alternative approach to the documentation of a major sporting event fits in perfectly with our ethos, presenting an unlikely hero of the tournament in the guise of a weeping fan or a frantic crowd.
INT: Has your view or perception of the project changed four years on?
JS: I love this project even more. I love catching up with my pals in Brazil who I collaborated with on this and can’t wait to share this book and give something back that’s real, that they can hold in their hands. I think they’ll be really happy.
The book features an afterword from Damian Platt who wrote the original text, and myself. Damo’s written extensively on Brazil and co-wrote Culture is our Weapon published by Penguin, as well as being awarded an MBE for his service to human rights and community development in Rio de Janeiro, so it’s been great to collaborate and create this book.
INT: How did you approach making an edit of the series and then curating these within the book?
JS: We kept the photo essay chronological to tell the story of what it was like to watch the World Cup through the different group stages and experience of the fans in towns and cities across Brazil.
For each match we documented a different group of mates, friends, families and communities, watching the World Cup. From a farm to old folks home, an A&E department, to favela Complexo do Maré, which was occupied by 3,000 heavily-armed soldiers in preparation for the World Cup. We really wanted to show the different experiences people had while watching the tournament and how it brings people together. For example in Maré, when Brazil played there were parties through the favela, even the soldiers couldn’t resist watching the match, too.
Where did the idea to include the Panini stickers on the cover come from?
JS: This was Patrick’s idea for the cover. We both love Panini stickers, I have a small stash on my desk, so we decided to make Panini stickers for the fans, not the players.
PF: My favourite part of the design is the part that best conveys the intention behind the project, the cover’s use of stickers. The foundation of this project is about the fans, turning the lens away from the football and showing the people that make it all really happen. They aren’t simply portraits, they display the full spectrum of emotion that the fans went through, from excitement to hope, fear, despair, anger and pure elation! So the cover had to do something to show this, which is where the subtle reference to the world of Panini collectable football stickers comes in. Each book is hand finished with a random selection of stickers, but instead of showing the players as expected, we want to champion the fans, the real stars of the tournament.
INT: Could you talk us through the design of the book and how the images are laid out?
PF: The design really focuses on making sure that Jane’s photography and the stories behind each shot remain at the forefront. It’s a very stripped back approach, with the odd expressive layout to help convey the feeling of intensity as the Cup reached its final.
We wanted to dial up and down the volume of each spread, to show the intensity of a single emotion on one spread to the multitude of viewers reactions and chaotic fever as groups watched together. This approach meant we moved away from a traditional photo book format, to allow the spreads a bit of room to organically arrange themselves.
Each cover is printed as a single black ink on a vivid green dyed board and then finished with a random selection of stickers. Each cover has four stickers on it meaning the issue you are looking at is one of 436,680 possible combinations. In short, each copy is unique.
INT: What was the atmosphere like in Moscow when you visited?
JS: I love Moscow and was there for the opening week of the World Cup to document the launch of Nike Box MSK, a huge sports centre in Gorky Park. Brazil legend Ronaldo was there for the launch, along with Russian athletes, so it was an honour to photograph him because he made so many people in Brazil happy. I’d love to send him a copy of this book.
He’s a true legend because twice he bounced back from serious knee injuries. Everyone wrote him off, but he scored twice in the World Cup final 2002 to win Brazil the World Cup. I was really happy to see him carry the ball onto the pitch for the opening match in Moscow, because he deserves it.
You can preorder Watching the World Cup here.
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.