Hammarby | Capturing the raw emotion

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Swedish photographer, and Hammarby fan Arvid Gustavsson, puts himself at the centre of the action.

“I want to be a participant with a camera, not a spectator,” he says. “I want to be on the inside looking out.”

But Gustavsson fears the culture around the game is becoming too uniform, losing its edge.

“This urges me to highlight the diversity in the stands, and try to capture the characters and the traditions,” he said. “To pass it on.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

Social worker and photography enthusiast Arvid Gustavsson is a lifelong supporter of Hammarby, from Sodermalm in southern Stockholm. In closely documenting their fortunes this season he is reliving all the emotions that first drew him to his local club, while ensuring their traditions are preserved.

“Even though the terrace culture is constantly evolving, the core of the tradition  is passed on to younger generation,” he said.

“Today’s shots are of the same youngsters doing the same thing as I did growing up. It’s a comforting thought, really.”

He began following Hammarby with friends and quickly tapped into the sense of community. 

“I was immediately sucked into this world where anyone and almost anything seemed to be accepted. For me it was very much about the ambience, the rowdy and humorous crowd, and representing your community. 

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

“Modern Swedish terrace culture very much originated from the British, but the mixture of all these outside influences has merged into its own style, and the culture has been growing steadily for the last 25 years.”

Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

“From 15 I never missed a home game and travelled whenever it was possible, completing a perfect season a few years later. Back then you would recognise almost everyone else in the stand, and 30 years on you still exchange a few words if you see one of those familiar faces in the street, sometimes realising you never even knew their name.”

Gustavsson began taking pictures in the late 1990s with his mother’s point and shoot camera, and an old manual Konica given to him by his father.

Initially it was just pictures of friends at games, but when he looked back over the material years later, Gustavsson was struck by the way his early shots seemed to preserve the emotion of the occasion.

“Digging out all this material a few years ago, a sense of gravitas in almost every shot struck me,” he said.

“Not always perfectly executed, sometimes even defected, each one is a little gem of its own.

“They captivate the emotion of the moment in a way that I really had missed, in this era of constant access to the advanced camera in your phone and endless posting of similar snaps.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

This inspired Gustavsson to take up his cameras again.

“The kit I use is actually the very same as I used as a teenager, really closing the circle,” he said. “I try to bring dad’s Konica Autoreflex T4 as much as possible. Mom’s old taped up Canon Prima Mini II I use for more hectic occasions, like a derby day. I’m very much learning as I go along, and trying out different types of film. Most of the stuff is shot on Kodak Gold 200, Portra 400 and Cinestill 800T.”

He has seen the game develop over the years, and witnessed big changes at his own club, and in his own community.

“The club’s historical home in Södermalm has undergone a sad transformation due to gentrification, with a lot of people moving out and new groups moving in,” he explained.

“In 2013 a new state of the art arena replaced the mythical but worn down and outgrown Söderstadion.

 “Though planned for Hammarby and situated just by the old ground, the city council eventually invited rivals Djurgården to share the new one. This unprecedented move across town has led to them waging a sort of cultural war and rivalry.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

But Hammarby, 2001 league champions, have continued to grow, with average attendances over 25,000 in a division where some club’s capacities are a fifth of that.

“Hammarby as a club has been taking giant steps the last few years,” he said. “Attendances have doubled since the move to a bigger ground, and with only one league title ever, instead being known for the carefree atmosphere and vivid terrace culture, Hammarby are now a serious contender, second only to Malmö economically.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

Gustavsson continues to take his pictures, documenting the 2022 season from his vantage point in the stands.

“I want to catch that mixture of big emotions, grandiose expressions and everyday life,” he said. “The main perspective I want in my pictures is that of the active supporter, on the inside looking out. I want to be a participant with a camera and not a spectator.”

He sees himself and the supporters around him as the constant factors.

“You could express the idea of the project in terms of me and those around me being the constant, while the city, society and football in general keeps changing around us. Also, even though the terrace culture too is constantly evolving, the core of the tradition is passed on to younger generations. 

“So in a sense, today’s shots are of the same youngsters doing the same thing as I did growing up, but in this transformed setting.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

“The thing that fascinates me about shooting football culture would be the extreme emotions. It’s where people go to lose themselves and completely let their guard down, and if you stick around long enough you will catch moments of pure ecstasy, blind rage or sheer hopelessness.” 

Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

Gustavsson appreciates the league’s diversity and the photographic opportunities that brings.

“One week you’re at AIK in a spaceship with 45 000 others, next week it’s Värnamo with 5000 capacity and literally a pole vault stand blocking the view.

“One of the saddest things about the modern arenas, including our own, is that they’re very much isolated from the elements and the surroundings. But with the small clubs and provincial grounds still around, just shooting Hammarby still gets you both ends of the spectrum.”

Gustavsson found inspiration in the work of Swedish photographer Martin Nauclér, who started out shooting Hammarby and their fans in the 80s.

“Initially he had a bit of a hard time getting accepted, but totally grew into the culture and stuck around, documenting the life of Hammarby fans for years and producing an amazing book in 1995. 

“More known to Lower Block readers, I really love Richard Davis and Tony Davis, the way they captured an era from within is just awesome. Also I take great inspiration from two local photographers and mates from football, Christian Carvajal Johansson‘s play with light and architecture and Fritz Dölling’s straightforward snaps.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

Gustavsson ‘s own advice is simple. “Keep shooting,” he says.

“The thing that fascinates me about shooting football culture would be the extreme emotions,” he said.

“It’s where people go to lose themselves and completely let their guard down, and if you stick around long enough you will catch moments of pure ecstasy, blind rage or sheer hopelessness. 

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

“Visually, I like the contrasts, in singling out a certain silhouette or expression in a sea of people, shooting us in the foreground and them in the background, or the movement in the stands against the backdrop of the game. 

“What it really comes down to in the end though is documenting the lifestyle and my club from my own point of view, and sharing it with like minded.

“I grew up in a time where people bringing outside influences to Swedish football culture were true heroes, really devoted to travelling abroad, collecting pictures or videos, and implementing new ideas.

“Hammarby has a unique tradition in this aspect, first bringing the British style of singing in 1970, then an actual electrified samba orchestra in 1982, before pioneering the Italian ultras way in the 90’s, and later the South American. 

“Modern Swedish terrace culture very much originated from the British, but the mixture of all these outside influences has merged into its own style, and the culture has been growing steadily for the last 25 years. 

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

“My worst fear today is that it’s all becoming more uniform, both nationally and internationally. People all over are watching the same clips, putting their own words to the same melodies, spreading them on social media for others to learn between games. Same goes for style and clothing, it’s all very well documented and accessible and therefore loses much of its edge for me. 

“If anything, this phenomenon urges me to highlight the diversity in the stands, and try to capture the characters and bits of the traditions at Hammarby, to pass on.”

Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson
Hammarby football fan culture. By Arvid Gustavsson
© Arvid Gustavsson

If you enjoyed that, you may also like Shamrock Rovers fan culture, where photographer and fan Jon Daczkowski documents the passion around his club and highlights the importance of capturing those moments.

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