Stephen Ambrose: Calcio Storico17th September 2019
At Locate we get to work with some of the best creatives in the business and we love being able to share with you the work they do and their career journeys.
One such creative is photographer Stephen Ambrose. Stephen is an award winning photographer working with design and advertising agencies across the UK. He has recently won 3rd place in the IPA awards Extreme sports category for his latest project Calcio Storico.
Tell us a bit about how you got in to photography?
My initial interest in photography began with my Dad. He was a keen amateur and had an SLR. As my interest developed my parents bought me my own SLR when I was 12. After some bad careers advice I ended up doing business studies at college. I lived in a small northern town and all the careers adviser knew was high street portrait photographers. Then i got a job in a factory driving a fork lift truck and packing boxes. I stayed for 9 years but towards the end of this time I studied photography at night school where my tutor, Debbie, persuaded me to give up my job and go to Blackpool college full time to study for a degree in photography. After graduating I relocated to London and started to assist. Firstly Architecture with Peter Durant and Grant Smith and then I fell in to the advertising world when my assistant friend Vik got me in as a second on a shoot with Adam Hinton. This has now taken me all over the world on many campaigns working with all the agencies in London. In 2017 I won the portrait category at the AOP awards and this gave me my first advertising campaign and I spent most of 2018 working on numerous adverts for Adidas.
What appealed to you about starting this project?
This project started after spending most of 2018 photographing footballers at the top of their game. Then this made me think about what it takes to get to top level sports and I did a project on a young gymnast which showed me the passion that develops from a young age. Which then led me on to how that passion continues if it doesn’t become a career. I was looking for a project that would show the ultimate passion and sacrifice and I came across Calcio Storico.
What is Calcio Storico?
Calcio Storico is a game fought between the four districts of Florence, Italy every year. Twenty Seven men in each team play a fifty minute game. Two semi finals on the third weekend in June and then the final always played on the 24th June, La Festa di San Giovanni (the feast of John the Baptist). The game has been played since the sixteenth century in the Piazza Santa Croce. Passions run high. They do it for the love of their districts. No money is involved. The rules are no sucker punches and only one on one fighting but apart from this pretty much anything goes.
What were the challenges you faced shooting the project?
The main challenge shooting this project was rupturing my right arm bicep tendon a week before. But also, as with any project, was gaining access. I had tried to contact the Florence government and was getting nowhere. Then Locate productions put me in contact with an Italian producer that made a few phone calls and advised me that the best thing to do was for me to write a letter to the Florence government and state my case. Its a very local event and they like it that way. It’s not something that they want to publicise to the world so I think they liked that I was doing it for me. I didn’t hear anything until 4 days before the first semi final when they emailed to grant press access and then it was a rush to book flights and hotel.
What are you looking to work on next?
Now I’m looking for an agent. I find that I’m quoting on lots of jobs but losing out to photographers with agents. The quoting and usage process is a minefield which an agent would be massively helpful as with exposure and self promotion. I enter competitions and see art buyers and art directors with my folio but that extra exposure would be good. I think an agent gives an ad agency or client confidence in the whole shoot process, even if we all use the same production companies, casting directors, stylists, make up artists etc etc etc.
For my next personal project I’m continuing on the weird and extreme sports of the world. Calcio Storico was the beginning and it was such an experience. High pressure, spontaneous, chaotic but at the same time keeping yourself composed and thinking of the big picture and how each image will work in the project. With no art direction and no sports choreography you’ve really got to nail it first time as there’s no repeats of any actions. It makes the commissioned work a little easier.