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Contact Sport

I spent a season with the Millwall Venus rugby team taking photos of the matches, training sessions and capturing glimpses of the team life off the pitch.

After almost two years of lockdowns, being isolated at home and away from most of my family and friends, I longed for physical contact. Seeing people face to face, interacting with them was a healing and invigorating experience. Therefore, doing a project about a team sport that probably has the most amount of varied physical contact — rugby — seemed
an obvious train of thought. Telling a story about a contact sport played by women was another powerful message I wanted to get across. 



I never regretted my decision. Watching those powerful, beautiful humans experience a broad range of emotions; being fierce and ruthless one second, switching to being fragile and caring the other was exactly the contrast I was seeking to capture. I wanted to display it through touch, often opting in for a close-up rather than a wide angle, searching for refrains in the surroundings; capturing quirky and sometimes ironic details of the team’s life. I intentionally stepped away from the standard sports reportage photos you would see in newspapers
and on sports-related websites.

In exploring the subject of vulnerability, I started with joining a taster session in July 2021, and went home with a heavily bruised leg as an entry point into the contact sport world. Throughout the season I observed the players' attitude to injuries. In their group chat they often bragged about the bruises and cuts they got with after a match or a training session. I felt that such a spontaneous, organic way to acknowledge one's fragility and their body's resilience needed to find its way into the book. Chat messages about upcoming after-training pub crawls were another snippet of the team's inner life that caught my attention. Thus, having gotten the team's permission, I added a few screenshots to the physical version of the book.

It so happened that all the matches the team played weren’t home matches due to ongoing repair works at their home pitch. To display this, I included a map with locations of all the rugby pitches the players had to travel to. For me it’s a physical proof of how determined the team was to keep going. 

The narrative in the book is open-ended: though the current season is over, the team keeps training
for the next one, their inner dynamics ever evolving.

Book details: 80 pages, exposed spine, hardback.
Paper used: Arctic Volume 150 gsm, Chromatico Digital Clear 110 gsm.
There are two pages with attached pockets that have a set
of small-sized cards with screenshots from the team chat and my family chat. 

Cover: light brown bookcloth, the front cover is marked with white paint that has a distinct texture of a rugby ball. The back cover has
an indentation made by the studs of the rugby shoes.

The book, prints and other merch are available for pre order


Number of copies: 45.

The project was published as an artbook
and a set of prints. The book was presented
as an art installation 
at the Lord Nelson,
local pub where the team spends
their time
off the pitch together. The event was curated by Anna Nesterenko.

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