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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

Work / Photography

Martin Andersen turns his lens towards the life-long fans of Tottenham Hotspur

Dog shows make quite the appearance over here at It’s Nice That, but nothing caught our eye more than the work of Martin Andersen at the beginning of this year. His fantastical eye for the curious, the pampered, the exquisite and the downright humorous was an instant hit – as seen within his ongoing series Dog Shows, where the photographer took us behind the scenes of this exceptionally competitive world that he had been visiting religiously for over a decade.

Nearly 12 months on, Martin returns with a new project and subject matter: the Tottenham Hotspur fan. Since we last featured him, he has continued to work on a further addition to his documentary repertoire with a project titled Sojourn, alongside art directing a book proposal for Chanel, directing a new music video for Lowly’s 12:36, and finalising the edition and production of this new book, Can’t Smile Without You – in fact, it’s only been a couple of weeks since he returned from Italy where he oversaw the printing. The publication features editing and grading by acclaimed photographer Kim Thue, and a foreword by Tottenham fan Joe Kerr, author of Bus Fare: Collected Writings on the London Bus, plus an interview by Felix Petty, editor at i-D magazine.

As a life-long supporter himself, to photograph the fans of Tottenham Hotspur seemed like a natural turning point for Martin. It also came following a New Years’ resolution last year, where Martin decided to actively take on less commercial projects and focus only on those that he “truly believes in”, putting more time and energy into his own personal works. “This decision meant that I ended up taking on some more teaching, but I have had a fantastic creative year,” he tells It’s Nice That. As somewhat contrasting to its predecessors, this latest produce sees Martin become fully engaged, both physically and emotionally, with his subject – dissimilar to his “observer” and “outsider” viewpoint found within his previous projects. “[The project’s] also then a lot longer because I wanted to get closer to the people I was photographing,” he adds. “One thing is being a football fan, another is to be part of the different groups of people you are actually photographing.”

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

Martin has been going to see his team play on a regular basis since the mid-90s. He actually began Can’t Smile Without You way back in 2012, after his frustration grew from the “lack of loyalty” found within modern football. “I wanted to celebrate our fans – the unsung heroes of our club,” he says. “The fans never switch alliances, they are here forever and I felt that it needed to be documented and celebrated.” While commencing his project, Martin began with a camera in hand, taking to the games and capturing the atmosphere found on the streets and in the pubs – both before and after the match. “It ended up growing into an obsession,” he adds. Then, after three years of this continuing process, he realised how he was actually beginning to document a piece of history: the last seasons at White Hart Lane in June 2017 before the club was demolished in order to rebuild a new stadium, which is now what could be described as “more commercial” and of course much bigger. “It felt fitting to put that into a book to mark the occasion – I decided that our last game at White Hard Lane should be the endpoint of this project.”

Inside, its viewers can expect to find over one hundred home and away games photographed between 2013 and 2017, as well as “different generations of fans, the camaraderie, the banter, the songs in the pubs and the madness” – with the book’s title named after the Barry Manilow song that has been adopted as an anthem for supporters. Martin was particularly interested in depicting the characters, emotions and expressions found within these groups – making sure to hold his camera at the hip, working spontaneously and becoming wholly inconspicuous while out on the field. “I quickly learned that you don’t just turn up and get invited in and start taking pictures,” he says. In the beginning there were many questions made about his agenda, where one even accused him of being undercover police or a journalist – “I was once slapped and chased down the street at night, being promised of a proper beating.” Instead of backing away, Martin looked at these hurdles as a catalyst for becoming even more determined, acknowledging that he should take his time and get to know the people he was photographing.

This process worked much in Martin’s favour; one image, taken from the Queens Park Rangers away game in 2015, sees the photographer approach his “big muscular ‘hooligan looking’ skinhead” subject that stood right behind him wearing Stone Island, “with an intense stare on his face the entire game.” Riskily, he didn’t ask permission and instead snapped away. Months later, he bumped into this character on the train and, after a few beers, showed him the photo on his phone. Turns out, he “loved it” and even asked for an A2 print to hang in his home.

It’s a highly personal and impactful project, to say the least – one for the fans and non-fans alike. “I hope this collection of images will touch a nerve with the Tottenham faithfuls,” concludes Martin.

Can’t Smile Without You is available to purchase here.

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You

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Martin Andersen: Can’t Smile Without You