The One Love project is a photographic study of the game of soccer. In 2005, Levon travelled the globe documenting football culture, from small children in the mountains of Peru to professionals playing for their country.
“For me the hot dog seller outside the ground is as much part of football culture as the player or the fan. In total I covered 28 countries over 6 continents.
I used to arrive in a country for a big game and shoot that, both pitch side and around the ground. Then, I would tag on an extra couple of days in that country to wander the streets and find pick up games of soccer. When I approached the players and explained what I was doing they would mostly welcome me warmly and were happy for me to photograph them playing. Many saw it as an opportunity to represent their country.”
The basic idea was to produce a substantial body of work that takes a look at the whole spectrum of the global game. To step back and view the sport in its entirety was the intention. It is easy to become absorbed with the professional game due to the money, glamour and publicity. In reality professional football represents a tiny part of the global game when you look at the number of amateur players there are in the world. The importance of the sport to regular people is huge and sometimes borders on religion. For many it is territorial. For the majority it is pure pleasure.
The project was published into a book and was the biggest selling football book during the 2006 World Cup. The images were then produced into a touring exhibition that traveled to 17 countries over 2 years. It was viewed by over 1.2 million people.
platformPHOTO: Hi Levon, what has inspired you to create this series?
Levon Biss: I had never really seen a project that encapsulated the sport as a whole, in one single body of work. Looking at the game from a global and cultural perspective you have to pay attention to all levels of the game, from small children in the mountains of Peru to professionals representing their country. I don’t think that had ever been done and as far as I know it has not been done since, certainly from the perspective of a single photographer rather than a historic compilation or many.
platformPHOTO: What was behind your decision to include the countries that you did in this series?
Levon Biss: I wanted to get the full reach of the game and show how the sport has expanded across the globe. There were certain countries such as Brazil that had to be included due to their football history, but I also wanted to focus on other nations that are relatively new to the game, such as the USA or Canada. At present US Soccer is the fasted growing sport in the world, so it was good to show the game their in its infancy.
platformPHOTO: What was the most inspiring aspect of shooting a similar activity in many different countries?
Levon Biss: Shooting the same subject, every day for a year is difficult. It’s easy to fall into a pattern and start repeating yourself, so the challenge was to find alternative images. I usually went to a country specifically for a big professional game, then I would add on 3 or 4 extra days to my trip to find the alternative angle. This I found to be the most inspiring aspect, just walking for days around a city looking for pick up games. I met some interesting people in alternative locations!
platformPHOTO: What do you hope for viewers get out of this series?
Levon Biss: After viewing One Love I’d like the viewer to come away with a smile and view the game positively. It is easy to get caught up in the drama and seriousness of the professional game, so to see how much joy football gives to diverse people around the world is wonderfully refreshing.
platformPHOTO: To you, what is the role of photography?
Levon Biss: The basic role of photography is to communicate. Documentary photography should tell a story in a trustworthy and honest manner, advertising photography is a different thing entirely.
platformPHOTO: Are you self-taught or photography school taught? And how many years have you been in business?
Levon Biss: I went to college in my late teens/early 20’s in the UK and Spain. I’ve been in the industry for 14 years now.
platformPHOTO: Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to start photography?
Levon Biss: A documentary photographer called Brent Stirton. I work at the same agency with him when I was just starting out. His drive and enthusiasm for photography was infectious and inspirational.
platformPHOTO: Thank you so much for your time today Levon, we have one last question for you. If we sent you to a desert island and allowed you to take only one picture with you by another photographer, what would this image be?
Levon Biss: Any of the wide shots from Sebastian Salgado‘s gold miner series.
To view more work from Levon Biss, please visit his site: http://http://www.levonbiss.com/