With lockdown over, Sebastian Barros’ joyful portraits capture British isles teens reconnecting over football

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“There are certain things that unify us, culturally. Football is one of them. ” To coincide with Portrait of Britain 2021 , Barros – who was shortlisted for the honor last year – discusses their collaboration with education charity Football Beyond Borders

Concluding in the nation’s biggest yearly photography exhibition, Portrait of Britain is an award recording the many faces of modern Britain. Enter right now .

“There are certain things that unify us, culturally, ” says photographer Sebastian Barros. “Football is one of them. ”

In the wake of England’s small defeat in the UEFA European Football Championship, “loss” comes across as being a far cry from what defined that cultural moment. Rather, the competition shone a light on a new generation of British footballers who are using their platforms in order to incite change: fighting for your disadvantaged; standing against racism; challenging politicians.  

This particular understanding of football as a power for change lies at the heart of UK-based education plus social inclusion charity, Football Beyond Borders (FBB). Particularly, they help disadvantaged young adults who are passionate about football, but disengaged from school, finish their own education with the grades plus skills they need to transition up. It is well known that children from poorer backgrounds are usually less likely to do well on school. FBB compounds qualified practitioners drawn directly from the communities they work in – teachers, youth therapists and football coaches – to back up them in taking control of their futures.

© Sebastian Barros.

© Sebastian Barros.

Barros’ collaboration with FBB, What’s Good?, is a number of warming portraits shot over six weeks as the world reopened following the UK’s third nationwide lockdown. Set both off and on the pitch, the images capture young friends over the charity’s programs reuniting: boys and girls hugging, laughing and messing around; their joy and pleasure at reconnecting with one another palpable under Barros’ soft and playful gaze.  

“Every friendship has an unique method of reaffirming itself, ” states Barros. The magic of his photographs lie in their close renderings of that spectrum: some bonds are tactile plus exaggerated, led by fist bumps and giant grins; others are quiet and understated, found in the simple comfort associated with another’s presence. “This has become a year of confrontation, ” says Barros. “A lot of people are shouting. I think I needed to remind people from the nuances of conversation and the subtleties of body language; just how that can create energy, as well. ”

© Sebastian Barros.

© Sebastian Barros.

“This has been a year of conflict. A lot of people are shouting. I believe I wanted to remind people of the nuances of conversation and the subtleties of body gestures; how that can create power, too”

Young people, for who socialising is everything, happen to be hit particularly hard by the pandemic. For those who were currently struggling – falling at the rear of at school; going hungry at home – their complications were severely exacerbated. Kids whose parents are out of work are usually less likely to have access to sources that help them study from home, such as computers, applications and tutors. Foodbank charity the particular Trussell Trust reported the 95 percent increase in food parcels given to households along with children in April 2020, compared with April 2019. Mainly thanks to Manchester United and England player Marcus Rashford, such instances of child food poverty have been forced into the public eye. To encourage their participants, FBB factors to Rashford, and other players like him, as an example of channeling one’s frustrations directly into constructive change, instead of giving up, or checking out.

Accompanying Barros’ images are quotes in the teenagers themselves about what they will missed in their time apart. “I missed always getting someone to talk to; asking about their day and just possessing a small conversation, ” claims Arya, 15. “I missed the worldies we utilized to score over the park, ” says Fernando, 15. Turaine, also 15, missed “the banter we could share and the good energy that surrounded us. It goes to show that will friends are an important element of a happy life. ”

“The work FBB does with kids is incredible, ” says Barros. “You can see the positive impact their programs have had on kids’ mental health and self-esteem. I just wish we had them inside my school when I was we were young. ”

© Sebastian Barros.

© Sebastian Barros.

© Sebastian Barros.

Flossie Skelton

Flossie Skelton joined British Record of Photography in 2019, where she is currently Commissioning Editor across awards, Dojo and partner content. The lady does freelance writing, editing and campaign work throughout arts, culture and feminism; she has worked with BBC Arts, Belfast Photo Festival and Time’s Up. She is also an illustrator, with artwork published in Marie Claire, ES Magazine, Sunday Occasions Style and the Guardian.

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