Since my childhood obsession with basketball began, I have continued to be drawn to the aesthetic of hoops and courts. I find myself intrigued by their use (or lack of) and presence in a football-loving nation.
After moving around South-East London for almost 10 years, I landed in Bermondsey in 2017 and immediately noticed how many basketball courts were in close proximity to the block of flats where I live. Whilst on commutes and aimless Sunday afternoon wonderings around the neighbourhood with my wife, I would discover more. Some on unassuming side streets, or hidden on estates. Others were tucked away beside railway bridges – still, many stood boldly in plain sight.
On reflection, since I was pulled into the Instagram hype in late 2010, I’ve always enjoyed shooting and sharing pictures of basketball courts on my feed. In a city like London, it’s easy to keep ‘The ‘Gram’ populated with a variety of hoops, captured in interesting locations. These are always, of course, shot on my iPhone.
It wasn’t until my daughter was born at the end of 2019 that I explored the option of shooting on film. The idea of capturing special moments digitally felt unfulfilling, I wanted my daughter to hold her baby pictures up close in her hand one day – not look at them in the distance on a screen. I wanted something lasting and tangible, something physical that captured a temporary moment for a long time. I grabbed an Olympus MJU II and began shooting.
It didn’t take long before my fixation with hoops made its way onto 35mm. A baby needing to sleep combined with the limited options offered by a global pandemic, meant that long walks became more frequent, new basketball courts were discovered and (apparently) the thrill of taking pictures of my infant daughter can get boring after a while. So on a cold day, while snow thawed and the sun made a reluctant appearance, I loaded my camera with the ‘KIRO 400’ film (purchased because the packaging looked sick) and began shooting some hoops. All puns intended.
It was a national lockdown, so courts that were guarded by gates and fences, now had additional padlocks and chains. Undeterred, I slipped my camera through railings, peered through my viewfinder from afar and hoped for the best. Where I could gain access, I navigated the pushchair around patches of snow and ice and patiently waited for the sun to peep out from the clouds before shooting. The lack of accessibility to the courts would have been depressing, if it wasn’t for the wintery conditions discouraging any enthusiasts from getting any shots up that day, lockdown or not. It prompted me to be more creative (a classic head-on hoop pic from mid-court had previously been my jam), and it wasn’t without awkward looks from playground parents wondering why a bloke with a pushchair was clambering around the fence of the basketball court. A fair concern.
I was pleasantly surprised when the pics came back, and were better than I’d expected. They’ll make an appearance on my IG feed, but writing this piece has me considering the stories that each court might have to tell. Like my daughter’s baby pics, perhaps these too need to last a little bit longer than just a moment.
Check out more pictures of basketball courts (and various other random stuff…) on my personal Instagram page.