Watching People Watching Football In Pubs
Well here’s a page that does what it says on the tin.
Don't worry, you won't be subjected to my bar-room manager take on the game, or any big thoughts about its rich history and its proper place in British popular culture - because I don't really have one.
To be completely honest, I don’t follow football and never have done. I've lived a whole life without the beautiful game in it. Before you DM me a "U OK hon?", or rush off and set up a crowdfunding page, you should probably know it's just not in my DNA. I grew up in a house where we didn't do football (or pubs, or religion - but that's another story for another day). Also, I've always been terribly short-sighted and therefore, at my very sporty comprehensive, totally rubbish at ball games.
I've been taken to matches by well-meaning friends trying to "save" me. On occasion, I've tried really hard to get "in the zone", chanting and cheering and chest beating with the best of them. But if it ever seemed like I had ascended to football nirvana, I was faking it. I've never actually personally experienced those transformational, ecstatic moments - the football rapture - enjoyed by the people I photograph.
Pubs? Now they're a totally different animal and I've always been rather fond of them. And now they've brought me to enjoying an aspect of football. Watching fans in them over the last few years has given me a long overdue education about the game, and just how much it means to people. Shooting these pictures, I have developed a new-found respect for (most of) the fans I've met.
And, despite what you might think, I've never once been threatened or intimidated because I was there with a camera to photograph fans rather than watch the game.
The nearest thing I've encountered is mild surprise (and a bit of good natured piss-taking) that anyone would actually want to spend time doing this rather than watching the match. All they've ever tried to do is evangelise about football and share their passion - until kick-off, and then I'm completely forgotten about and totally ignored.
In terms of actually welcoming a photographer in, landlords have been split 50/50 along the lines of either "not in a million years mate" or "come in, sit down and have a pint".
In the pubs that have let me in, there’s never been any problem getting a seat, even during a major tournament. Probably because the one I really want is right under the screen with no view of the action. It's the one seat in the house that's free, even on final night. The pub seat version of the losers ribbons at the FA Cup final - it's always there and never used (thanks for this genuine piece of football trivia to friend, fellow photographer and lifelong Man United supporter, John Clare).
All of the pictures here are fans watching the England squad playing internationally in the 2018 World Cup or Euro 2020 and they are all shot in some excellent pubs I would heartily recommend to anyone - especially photographers - as they all have great landlords who have always made me more than welcome.
The Windmill, Mayfair
The Deal Taphouse
The George IV, Chiswick
The Rutland Arms, Hammersmith
(Two other great pubs that are also brilliant and very welcoming to photographers but don't show the football are The Guinea Grill, Mayfair and - of course - my spiritual home - Norman's in Soho).
Many of these pictures were shot in near darkness - about 1/15th at f1.7 and an ISO of about 500,000. And after much playing around, I've edited them all using a darker, warmer style of black and white that makes it look like they were shot on film and developed in a bath of Guinness. Don't @ me.