Sebastian Barros documents authentic moments of adolescent friendship as restrictions lift

Created in collaboration with Football Beyond Borders, the series captures the spectrum of human connection, replete with fist bumps, hugs and wry smiles.

23 June 2021

Over the last few weeks (well, until the rain returned), the UK has felt like a different place. We’ve been able to see friends and family, whether over a pint, a bbq in the back garden or in the sun down the local park. It’s been a time of joy as family members and old friends who’ve been apart for so long come together once more. It’s in this context, as the restrictions on hugging and physical contact have been lifted, that London-based photographer Sebastian Barros’ latest series takes place.

As young people have been returning to school and to clubs that fill up their free time, he created a series of portraits in collaboration with Football Beyond Borders (FBB), a social inclusion charity that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are passionate about football but disengaged at school. By providing long-term, intensive support, built around relationships and young people’s passions, they help young people finish school with the skills and grades they need to progress in life. Sebastian spent six weeks visiting various FBB programmes across London, attempting to capture moments of authentic human connection between friends.

The series titled What’s Good achieves this and more. For anyone who grew up playing football, it’s a nostalgic reminder of the close bond that playing sports with friends creates. We see fist bumps and hugs but also wry smiles and glimpses into the inner workings of several friendships. This plethora of connection is exactly what Sebastian set out to create, he explains, wanting to document how “every friendship has a unique way of reaffirming itself,” where some are more tactile others are “more subtle, just quietly being close in someone’s presence. I wanted to capture that spectrum.”

Sebastian had been in contact with FBB since early March, trying to work out a way they could work together. At the same time, he’d been wanting to shoot something that honed in on themes of connection and reunion, so when FBB reached out with a programme they wanted content for, Sebastian pitched the idea. “They loved it and gave me all the support I needed finding the right programmes and kids for me to shoot,” he explains. The first session was during the Easter holidays and was one of the first warm days of the year. “There’s something about London and the UK as a whole when the sun’s out that instantly lifts everyone’s mood, and it was that with the added fact that this was one of the first moments all the kids got to see each other after the long winter months in lockdown,” that created such a joyful series of images, Sebastian says. “There was lots of hugging, fist-bumping and jokes between them, it was very special to see and document.”

GallerySebastian Barros: What’s Good (Copyright © Sebastian Barros, 2021)

Visually, the series is candid and playful, feeling like it was shot by one of the teams, rather than an incongruous photographer. It seems clear that Sebastian spent time creating a rapport with those in front of his lens before taking their portraits and the results are a joy to see – a true documentation of the importance of adolescent friendships. Nowhere are these authentic relationships clearer than in a series of montages, presented almost like a film strip. We get to see the entirety of an interaction, be it two girls cracking up while sharing some chips, or a coach giving his players high fives before turning to Sebastian and offering him a fist bump too. Sebastian says that looking at his portfolio as a whole, he doesn’t think he’s a photographer who can be defined by a single visual style. However, moments like these are typical of his practice, as he strives to capture the in-between, unanticipated shot; the one that happens after the “main event”. “I hope the red thread that connects all my work is a sense of narrative and my drive to capture the unexpected shot,” he explains. “It’s that split moment of unfiltered human emotion I like to capture.”

At the moment, Sebastian has a lot of projects on the go, both commercial and personal but the one he’s most excited about is a self-initiated series he’s been working on for the past year. Also in the realm of football, it documents Grenfell Athletic FC. “The team was formed immediately after the tragic fire in 2017 as a kind of lifeboat for the community,” Sebastian tells us. “There are so many exciting things planned for them over the next year, and I feel really privileged to be on that journey with them.” We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the culmination of that work – and you should too!

GallerySebastian Barros: What’s Good (Copyright © Sebastian Barros, 2021)

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Sebastian Barros: What’s Good (Copyright © Sebastian Barros, 2021)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

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.

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