An Arsenal fan? You can put your shirt on it

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“I’m an Arsenal fan, always have been,” says Chris Read. “I’m from that zone where I haven’t really known anything else.”

Not a professional photographer, Read just likes taking pictures. “I’m out there having fun,” he says. He uses a Contax T2. “It’s about the shirt, not the camera,” he continues.

Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

“I was incredibly blessed growing up during a period of not just amazing success, but also such iconic players. Ian Wright felt like one of our own, and he has continued to represent such a positive and progressive media role model for the game, something I hugely admire. 

“Watching Thierry Henry in his prime was like watching the best player in the world play in your back garden every other week. That being said, Dennis Bergkamp, on his day, when he was in the mood, that, for me, is football. 

Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

“More than just the harnessing of physicality of the game, to be so many steps ahead, and to be so elegant, that for me, is football from another planet.”

Read remembers clearly his first match, a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Sitting in the West Stand Upper, Read was hooked before the game had even kicked off.

“Completely blown away,” he said. “It sounds cliche, that walk up the stairs, when the pitch finally comes into view in front of you, was amazing. I’ll never forget that view, the carpet like grass, the atmosphere, and how it made me fall in love with the game in a whole new way.”

Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

“Watching Thierry Henry in his prime was like watching the best player in the world play in your back garden every other week.” 

Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

That was just the beginning for Read, and it went to a new level when he added photography to the mix.

“I bought a season ticket and had a point and shoot camera I took everywhere with me at the time. Honestly, I never left the house without it. I thought, if I’m spending this much on a season ticket, I should probably do something with it. 

“I’d always been interested in fan culture and the social side outside of just observing the game. I had seen customised shirts and when I was at games, snapped them. That then grew and grew, and even when I gave up my season ticked for work reasons, I kept the project going.”

Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

“Football culture for me is the ultimate leveller. Terrace culture is the voice of the people, and as much as I can’t say I’m a catalyst of that, I’m a listener.”

Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

Read is full of admiration for the photographic work of others.

Martin Parr’s dedication to social documentary is both inspiring and empowering, he said.

“Don Mcullin’s appreciation of the human spirit makes my heart swell. Boris Mikhailov, his work is so exciting. But William Klein is essentially the king of street photography in my opinion.

Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

“It sounds cliche, that walk up the stairs, when the pitch finally comes into view in front of you, was amazing. I’ll never forget that view, the carpet like grass, the atmosphere, and how it made me fall in love with the game.”

Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

“At school, my favourite subject was history, I’m interested in people, anthropology. If you break it down to a basic level, when we were sat around fires as first generation people, we told stories. 

“That hasn’t left us. All art is story telling, and I think that taps into a deep sense of all of us. 

“I’m a huge proponent and dedicated subscriber to social mobility. This is what I live for. Football culture for me is the ultimate leveller. Terrace culture is the voice of the people, and as much as I can’t say I’m a catalyst of that, I’m a listener.”

Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read
Arsenal fans football shirts
© Chris Read

His advice for other aspiring photographers? “Try and find a story and subject that is true to you, then it will never feel like work. The best personal work I think is when someone can see something in themselves in the subject.”

Keep up with Chris’ Arsenal shirt project on Tumblr.

For licensing, commissions or collaborations, Chris can be reached for directly at info@chrisread.tv

If you enjoyed that, you may also like Apocalyptic football stadiums, where photographer Alex Mather discovers the cold, harsh reality of football stadiums without the fans – including some great shots of the Emirates.

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