1. Sortie de Match

    I always liked rugby, instinctively. Without ever getting close to it. Neither as an amateur, nor as a fan. Deep inside of me, I have always been fascinated by the brute strength which emanates from these men. By their disconcerting beauty, diametrically opposed to the usual canons. 

    From this attraction, a first photographic project was born in 2004 for L’Equipe Magazine which I entitled “Broken Faces”. A series of tightly cropped portraits of forwards from the French rugby team. I wanted to do more. I needed a way in. So I showed my work to the National Rugby League. Their enthusiasm gave me wings. Their support was essential. They gave it to me unconditionally. In the spring of 2006, the presidents from the 14 clubs of the French championship opened their teams’ locker rooms to me. I awaited the end of the game, in the bowels of the stadium, to shoot a portrait of each player. During the few minutes, as they exit the field, while they are still in the momentum of the game. Breathless, sweaty and beaten, their faces and bodies carry the open wounds of their relentless ninety minute struggle. I wanted to see the marks this confrontation left on them : the blows and exposure to the elements, the rage and exhaustion. I tried to capture this moment, before the stigmata from their total self-abandonment disappeared. The moment when these men are no longer bulldozers, before they become gods of the stadium. They are returning from a super-human effort. Coming down to earth where the aesthetic is no longer that of the battle.

    By photographing them all the same way, without accessories, without tricks, without location, I stalked the brutal beauty of their battered faces. My experience shooting portraits taught me to make time an ally. It usually allows me to fine-tune lighting, to improve the “mise-en-scène”, to jostle the model, to arouse his curiosity. This time, I played against time. The quicker it passed, the more I lost what I was looking for. One day, a wounded player showed up in the locker room, alone. I wanted to photograph him. “You’re bugging the hell out of me. I’m seeing stars here,” he said to me as he was about to pass out. These stars are what I wanted to capture.

    Denis Rouvre

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