Because of their busy schedules, VIPs usually make shoots into brief affairs. Celebrities of all kinds — especially athletes — have busy, regimented schedules, which puts the onus on the photographer to get a wide swath of shots in what seems like the blink of an eye. For at least one assignment, however, Roger Neve didn’t have to deal with the usual time constraints that come with work of this nature. Over the course of four hours, Roger shot imagery of English soccer superstar Lucy Bronze in Lyon, France, the home of her club team, Olympique Lyonnais Féminin.
As we normally get less than two hours, we were thrilled to spend more time with Lucy. She was a total pro and very gracious.
The project was for New York City-based art-meets-soccer magazine Eight by Eight and was Roger’s fifth go-around with the publication. Fittingly, he first learned of the magazine from the parent of a kid who was on his son’s soccer team.
My wife, who represents me, contacted Eight by Eight and suggested a meeting. At that time, they were only using illustrations on the cover and had been thinking of doing live photos. Several months later, we got a call asking if I could be in Paris five days to shoot Italian soccer player Marco Veratti.
Eight by Eight was super happy with how the shoot turned out and we’ve maintained our relationship since.
If you know anything about soccer players in Europe, you know that they’re basically demi-gods all across the continent (and throughout much of the world). That creates another obstacle for people like Roger, who have to set up shop in a private location to get the shots they need in the already-short allotment of time. Check out what happened when Roger dared venture outside with Marco:
Marco is so famous in Europe that we had to stay inside a suite at the Hotel Majestic in Paris and shoot him. I tried to take him on the street and he was mobbed.
These are taxi drivers that jumped out of their cars to get a photo within 30 seconds of him appearing on the sidewalk.
This same phenomenon happened when Roger explored Lyon — a city that supports its women’s soccer team as well as any in the world — with Lucy. Having long ago learned how to work around this unavoidable occurrence, Roger was more than ready.
Very often, high level players can’t even take a walk on the streets, so we definitely needed to have a Plan B. Fortunately, Cour De Loges Hotel Lyon was willing to work with us as a home base.
That makes two major challenges Roger usually has to negotiate during Eight by Eight shoots: time constraints and rabid fans. Exhaustingly, there is another big hurdle to jump over — the amount of prep time Roger is afforded. Since he knows the drill by now, compiling a top-tier team in short order was fairly straightforward.
We often get the call a few days before to take off and put a shoot together in 48 hours or fewer. We found absolutely wonderful local talent to work with on very short notice. Thank you, Instagram and Google. We found our crew through #LYON. We called every French person we knew, but I think everyone was just picked off the internet.
I think the number one thing people don’t realize is how many hours of prep go into these shoots, even on such short notice. My team worked ‘round the clock and finalized the crew and hotel the day before we shot.
Roger, who says he works best under pressure, is still somewhat new to sports photography. What makes Eight by Eight such an appealing client is that it’s a hybrid between art and sports media, helping the New York-based photographer diversify his skillset in a way that doesn’t feel like a baptism by fire — even with the fact that his team had to get video of Lucy on top of still images.
The bulk of my career has mostly been in fashion and advertising, so soccer was originally more of a passion project for me. As all the lines get blurred these days and athleisure is such a hot market, branching out into sports has kind of been a natural progression. I absolutely love it.
As you watch the video above, take note of the fact that there isn’t a soccer ball in sight. Usually, when female athletes get profiled, they’re shot in uniform and the conversation revolves around their career, as opposed to their personal life and other interests. While the story does discuss Lucy’s unorthodox rise to soccer stardom, it’s really more about who she is as a person and what her future goals outside of sport entail — something the Englishwoman wholeheartedly appreciated and a trend that Roger hopes will continue.
Lucy and the client were thrilled with the photos as you never see female soccer players in anything but a uniform. Lucy remarked, ‘I’ve never shot anything like this before!’ She was absolutely a pleasure to work with, and I would love to shoot her anytime. I think more profiles like this for female athletes are coming. And I’m happy for them.
Explore more of Roger’s work at rogerneve.com.
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