Larger-than-life photos make heroes of France's amateur athletes

Olympic spirit is the inspiration for this year's Urban Eye (L’Oeil urbain) photo festival in Corbeil-Essonnes outside Paris. Photographer in residence Cyril Zannettacci chose to celebrate amateur athletes through larger-than-life portraits in his outdoor exhibition "Citius, Altius, Fortius".

More accustomed to documenting social issues than sports, Zannettacci told RFI it was challenging to come up with a project that matched the festival’s theme.

First and foremost, he knew he wanted to find a way to put ordinary people on a pedestal by combining his loves of portraiture and the urban environment.

His collaborative project allowed him to meet sportspeople of all ages from the working-class suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes, some 30 kilometres south of Paris.

He photographed them practicing all sorts of sports, from billiards to pétanque, football to gymnastics to ping-pong.

Borrowing from a technique he used once before in a series on the fashion industry, he began by taking pictures of the athletes striking action poses in the studio against a black backdrop.

Then, he re-projected the studio images onto the walls of buildings around Corbeil-Essonnes at night and took a photo of each projection – a fun process he says got the whole community involved.

The result is a series of portraits of people leaping over cars, diving off footbridges and slam-dunking apartment balconies, like giants in their city playground.

Extraordinary athletes

“The idea is to pay homage to athletes in the shadows and amateur sports clubs and show how extraordinary they truly are,” Zannettacci told RFI.

Like sport, Zannettacci says, taking photos require patience, hard work and self-sacrifice.

Read more on RFI English

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