Book review: Beyond the Turnstiles

p13-seating-ipswich-wanderers-englandFootball is a game of moments. Yes, there might be an overarching narrative to a season, imposed or genuine, and yes, every game has an ebb and flow, but each game is composed of fragments, instances in time that resonate after the 90 minutes have passed. Moments of skill, of tenacity, the reaction of the crowd, every time Mike Dean makes a decision: these are the things we remember.

It’s hard to review a book of photography, for me at any rate: I don’t have the skill of someone like John Berger or Susan Sontag to describe what I see with any sort of theory, and, while I can appreciate something I like, I know little of composition or style. But, there’s little doubt that Leon Gladwell’s new collection, , is a majestic achievement. Sumptuously put together by the fine people at Ockley Books, it is the best collection of football images I have ever seen.

Why does it work? Gladwell has clearly got an excellent technique and eye, but these photos speak of what football is actually about. The run-down terraces, the unbalanced craning of fans trying to see the action, the hardy soul who turns up at every home match despite the cold, the rain, the shit football – football’s backdrop is lovingly represented. So to are the majestic stadiums where the game is played, majestic either by design or setting. The colour of the tifo sits side by side with washes of greens and browns that frame football in the Faroe Islands. Big or small, famous or barely known outside a single postcode, football is here in all its forms, and it makes for wonderful viewing.

p11-faraway-football-in-vagur-fc-suduroy-faroe-islandsSupplemented by some interesting essays from Stuart Roy Clarke, David Buckram, Stuart Fuller and others, the whole book is worth going through with a fine tooth-comb, but it’s Gladwell’s photos that, obviously and quite rightly, are the stars of the show. This book sings of the time and effort that go into capturing that perfect shot, that moment in time, that makes football so precious to so many of us.

 by Leon Gladwell is published by Ockley Books and is currently available in hardcover. Photos courtesy of Leon Gladwell/Ockley Books and not be reproduced without the author’s permission.


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