Art and sport

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Eighteen of the world's top lensmen have come together to help celebrate Fifa's centenary. Gill Brown reports

William Klein's portrait of Eric Cantona (right), photographed for the Fifa 100 exhibition is both striking and unexpected. The frenzied Cantona holds a pen with which he has apparently etched the phrase "You play to fight the idea of losing" across his torso.

Klein had just read John McEnroe's autobiography and as a tennis player himself, had been struck by the champion's revelation that he had been motivated by the fear of losing. So when he came across the quote by the footballerartist he didn't hesitate. "I knew at once what Cantona meant and I knew that was what I must photograph," says Klein, who is known for his "in your face" images.

Klein is one of 18 photographers chosen to capture the spirit of the greatest footballers alive, in celebration of 100 years of Fifa, football's governing body. The touring show is currently at the Royal Academy in London until August 30 and the 119 names were chosen by Pele, the legendary Brazilian centre forward, who says of the exhibition, "It casts a new light on the world's footballing heroesI(and) is a wonderful celebration of the beautiful game."

Each photographer was asked to produce images in their own distinctive style. Pele is featured by several photo-graphers, including Marc Quinn, in his extraordinary panorama which greets the visitor at the entrance. A wall of famous faces, eyes focused upward to the football on their head, captured at the moment of balance.

Quinn is perhaps best known for his sculptural work including the controversial "Alison Lapper Pregnant", current occupant of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. He is fascinated by all aspects of body and soul and wanted to depict the god-like quality of these mortal superstars.

For teachers wanting to draw links between art and sport there could be no better inspiration. Patrick Lichfield for example, chose two completely different approaches for his arrangements. The first is a brightly coloured series of players in almost balletic poses, placed against a white background and taking the form of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The second series takes the opposite approach. Shot in black and white, iconic images of Rivaldo, Crespo and others are defined by halo-like effects in the background. Each has a timeless feel.

The excellent Fifa100 website includes an intimate video clip of Lichfield and Pele at the photoshoot, revealing how both styles were shot and how Pele's famous back-flip was caught on camera. The site features every player, located via a map of the world. All the photographs can be downloaded, as well as posters and other useful details on the photographers. Art teachers may, suggests Klein, wish to stretch their students by asking them how they might put together such an exhibition.

Would they follow chronology, themes, ideas?

In the Royal Academy, groups can wander through four galleries and 125 portraits, but the real surprise is a huge video screen placed at the halfway point where you can view clips of the world's top 10 goals. Only two women are pictured. Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers are both, unsurprisingly, top US players. Overwhelmingly, this celebrates male success - but in a new light.

David Grob, curator, thinks the value for students lies in looking beyond the stereotypical photographs of footballers that they see every day in newspapers and television. "These portraits come from a different perspective and tell us more about the soul of a player and his relationship to the sport than the usual action-packed shots." The most surprising contribution comes from Vik Muniz, celebrated Brazilian photographer. He cast his subjects in chocolate along with other everyday items and made a sculpture or painting which he photographed before destroying. Proof, if needed, that portrait photography need not be predictable.

* For a chance to win 30 tickets to the Fifa100 exhibition, email your name, school address and telephone number to

You can also claim two tickets for the price of one when booking by phone by quoting "TES Teacher reader offer".

Offer ends July 21 and cannot be used with other offers. Tel 0870 906 3881.

And for the chance to win a limited edition David Beckham print and 10 copies of the Fifa100 book, signed by selected players and photographers, visit

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