The Twelfth Man is a project from Matt Cottis at IYA Studio and photographer Dylan Collard which focuses on regular Londoners, and how the stark contrasts of the capital’s landscape provide unique and sometimes unexpected follies for their chosen sport. The name itself refers to how the inspiration of an environment and community can act as ‘the twelfth player.
From boxing in Lambeth to rowing along the Thames, the works capture an alternative view of sport, compared to the elite, high-performance glamour of Olympians and sporting legends. Instead, Twelfth Man showcases the people of London engaging with their chosen pastimes in an honest and ultimately human way.
Cycling around Kennington, the idea was sparked as Matt saw the cricket team — clad in their full whites — against the starkly urban and high-res backdrop of the city. Working with photographer Dylan Collard to capture the sporting moments, the project was not only a way of showing the vibrant and multi-cultural side of London’s sporting scene, but also a means to inspire others to get involved.
In contrast to the well-prepped and well-planned commercial shoots that Dylan was familiar with, shooting Twelfth Man had to be natural and genuine. Going for walks, chatting with strangers, and going with the flow resulted in finding and snapping a wide range of people and places.
These were taken on a 1920’s Gandolfini field camera – something that not only posed a logistical challenge in certain locations, but produced unique and detailed outcomes. As such, it was necessary for Dylan to work in a particular way whilst being confident in the process. The result was a series of undeniably powerful shots, and a celebration of London’s enthusiasm for grassroots sports.
“The sport, the architecture and the neighbourhood may change, but the common thread binding these photographs together are the people. Wherever the place, whatever the weather and whatever the sport, without them the game ceases to exist.” - Matt Cottis