I have, for as long as I can remember, always loved basketball. I have lived around North London for a couple of years now and, if you like basketball, you quickly discover there are 2 key spots: Finsbury Park and Ducketts Common. I was going through a bit of a creative funk so I decided that a good way to get back on track was to shoot something I love. Culturally my mind was permeated with what could be considered stereotypical images of basketball and basketball culture: basketball courts in New York, Chicago or LA, Hip-Hop, etc. So I thought it would be interesting to focus on how that culture translates and adapts to the UK setting.
Basketball is still miles away in terms of popularity when compared to sports like football, cricket or rugby, but it is growing slowly. I believe the sport is especially important within the context of inner-city dynamics because the courts become a place where people of different ages and backgrounds come to socialize. Having played on many occasions on this court myself I was always fascinated by what goes on around the games and this was my opportunity to explore and share that curiosity.
I didn’t set out with a particular discourse in mind. My idea was to photograph total strangers who I know share one particular interest with me and to find in their expressions parts of myself. In terms of aesthetic and conceptual decisions, I knew I wanted to shoot everything in black and white medium format film. I wanted black and white to serve as a sort of equalizer that would help the viewer focus on expressions and details. I also decided to keep the ‘action’ images to a minimum. Once you’ve seen a picture of a person dunking you’ve pretty much seen them all, and my interest is in seeing and showing people as individuals, not players.
Juan Ortiz-Arenas is a Colombian-born portrait and documentary photographer. He is currently based in London where he works and shares his Tottenham flat with his partner Emilija and their black cat, Uma. Juan’s work lies in the dividing lines between purely observational documentary and more stylized genres of photography.