On the Sidelines of the Brazil World Cup

July 7, 2014

Miami, United States

Russell Boyce

As national soccer teams and the photographers who have been covering them start to trickle home from the Brazil World Cup, it’s time to revisit the “On the Sidelines” project.

This Reuters Pictures project was billed as a chance for photographers to share “their own quirky and creative view of the World Cup”. I thought that I’d examine what has been achieved.

The media bus driver is reflected in a mirror during the trip away from the Pernambuco arena in the rain in Recife June 28, 2014.  In a project called 'On the Sidelines' Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP SOCIETY TRANSPORT) - RTR3WAK2

As a way of introducing the project, let me use a comparison. I’m intrigued by the notion that an animal that has been caged, but is well fed and well treated, will not exchange freedom from its pen for the uncertainty that this freedom might bring.

Likewise, working as a photographer at the World Cup comes with a kind of cage of security. You know what you are going to do, what time you are going to do it, and what is expected of you. You need to capture pictures of great sporting action, goals, celebrations, red cards and, of course, every important incident, be it Suarez’s teeth marks or the collision that led to Neymar’s broken vertebra. 

Brazil's Neymar screams in pain after being fouled by Colombia's Camilo Zuniga (not pictured) during their 2014 World Cup quarter-finals at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza July 4, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

For editors too, life can fall into a regular pattern. First, arrive at the office two hours before the start of the game and make sure all the technology works, and that tests have been received from the photographers.

Then, with three other colleagues, look at between 12,000 and 20,000 frames per game, select the right pictures and make sure the captions and image quality are good (all while trying to block out the sound of drilling from builders in the next room… See video below).

As the game finishes and the last end-of-match celebration and dejection pictures are being picked through, the photographers from the next game are already starting to send in tests for their match.

Eleven hours after arriving in the office, the World Cup editing team here in Miami leaves and tries to find something (healthy, of course…) to eat. And hopefully there is no polite but disgruntled call from a photographer claiming you missed their best picture…

Here is my screen after the Netherlands v. Costa Rica quarterfinal match.  

Am image shows a screeshot of Russell Boyce's screen.

It’s not at all easy to cover the World Cup. Photographers face all sorts of struggles: travelling for hours to get to the ground, avoiding being robbed, dealing with technical issues, setting up and shooting in the rain, not to mention getting the best picture. All of this can make you feel like you are trapped in a cage when it comes to being creative with your photography.

The “On the Sidelines” project was intended as an outlet from this hard work – an opportunity to enjoy the freedom to shoot additional creative and unexpected photographs, just for fun’s sake.

Young players of Planaltina football club practise in Planaltina July 3, 2014. In a project called "On The Sidelines", Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  REUTERS/Damir Sagolj  (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP SOCIETY) - RTR3X38P

The guidelines for the project were simple. You could photograph anything that you liked, with any camera or even phone that you liked, and use any caption you wanted as long as it had the correct date and location and didn’t offend.

The photographers were not to use filters (who needs amateur filters when you can compose and expose professionally anyway?) and, of course, they had to follow all of our professional ethical guidelines.

We added the following sentence to the caption of each picture so that some of the stranger shots would be put into context: “In a project called “On The Sidelines” Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil”.

A free condom is seen next to a note which details out that free condoms are provided to all guests at a hotel to comply to a municipal law, in Belo Horizonte June 27, 2014. In a project called "On The Sidelines " Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.   REUTERS/Dylan Martinez   (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP SOCIETY HEALTH) - RTR3W4TC

And which photographers took part? Every one of them.

What amazed me most was the energy and sense of fun that came through in the hundreds of pictures produced by photographers who were tired, hungry, and sometimes wet and grumpy, but never bored.

After a hard day in the cage, it was time for some freedom.

Having edited thousands of pictures from the matches, I also enjoyed looking at and processing “On the Sidelines” images when they were filed. They can all been seen here.

As we prepare for the final four matches of the World Cup, we are sending our mainstream clients an edited picture package, showing a selection of some of the hundreds of images produced as part of “On the Sidelines”.

We hope that our media clients and their readers will enjoy this second package of new material as much as they enjoyed a previous set of Sidelines pictures that we sent out.  

So, what has been achieved by the “On the Sidelines” project?  Our professional photographers have had a lot of fun producing yet another set of amazing pictures, all of which are in the archive to show “their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”

It’s a great record for them to look back on, in addition to the thrills and spills of the soccer action.

Now, bring on the final.

A French flag is displayed from the balcony of a hotel in Brasilia June 28, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray


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Great idea for sure but too bad your old school ways prevented your photographers from posting these images to Instagram, the perfect platform for this work to be seen. All your competitors and many of your subscribers used that platform to show off Brazil and the so called “quirkyness” to readers all over the world. Seems strange to produce a project that for the most part will never be seen by anyone. You know well enough that traditional media outlets will not run this content nor will they pay for it when so much of it is already available on other people’s Instagram feeds. But of course, going back to your previous post that Instagram should be left to amateurs why would we readers expect that the great Reuters photographers who covered the World Cup would be allowed to show us, the consumers of great photography, their work of the field of play in a modern and up to date platform. Sad for the photographers work to be hidden behind password protected archives rather than available to be seen by the masses.

Posted by JosephMarks | Report as abusive

Every picture from “On the Sidelines” was posted on our Instagram account “Reuterssport” some were also posted on our “Reuters” Instagram account too.

Posted by Cropperboyce | Report as abusive

Seriously who would even know reuterssport exits as a feed on Instagram. It is just another corporate attempt to brand itself without any knowledge how Instagram actually works. You are clearly missing out on the point of Instagram, it is a community of photographers sharing their work. If you corporatize your feeds as you are, there will be no engagement. Why is it that Getty gets it right, their photographers post to their own feeds, and build a following, engage the community and the corporate entity benefits also by reposting the photos to a separate feed. Everyone shares in the success and admires the work. Sorry, the idea of following another corporate promotional feed has little allure when there are so many fantastic photographers posting themselves. Did you even notice how many great photographers were posting images from Brazil during the World Cup? It was the perfect event to unleash the power of Instagram as so many of us were looking for the live moment to moment feel and vibe of Brazil away from the soccer pitch. Sounds like you created a curated reuterssport feed. In case you havent noticed Instagram should be “instant” not today’s pictures tomorrow or the next day. Sorry to see Reuters photographers missed out on one of the great uses of Instagram since its inception.

Posted by JosephMarks | Report as abusive