From Manchester and now living in Amsterdam, Andy Barrow was in awe on his visit to Italy’s landmark stadium, one of world football’s greatest and most recognisable venues, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, or more famously known as the San Siro.
“You could feel the intensity, the energy,” he enthused.
“The flags, the passion, the colours. They’re just very immersive. As we walked up the steps to the stands, I got goosebumps. It was probably one of the best stadium experiences I’ve had. Two of my friends are not into football at all and they came along and said it was unlike anything they’ve seen before.
“I love how football connects you globally… from playing five side on a beach in Cuba or talking to a father and son about their club on the metro to the San Siro.
“It can Instantly provide a frame of reference to a time, place or moment and the music, movies, fashion of the time…Kappa kits, Britpop, bringing back that local shirt from holidays as a kid, a lot of us can connect to that.
“Certain words, grounds, kits, players become almost adjectives to describe a moment in time such as if someone said “Ronaldinho Barca level good” or Stone Island or Napoli. It takes you to a place instantly in your mind.”
Barrow, a Manchester United fan from a young boy, is a recruiter by profession, with a love of creative photography and the story telling in pictures that comes with it. A trip to the San Siro provided the perfect opportunity to put his skills into practice.
“I had the chance through a work trip to visit Milan with a big groups of mates and colleagues,” he said. “Several of us decided, it would be really cool to watch a game at the San Siro, a true iconic stadium. So for me as a photographer and football fan I jumped at the chance to visit and capture those moments.
“Something like this gave me the chance to combine a lot of my favourite types of photography from street scenes, candid shots, reportage and architecture.
“It’s weird as Inter and AC played quite a part in my football childhood moments and memories. One of my first champions league finals I watched on TV was AC V BARCA (4-0 with Massaro’s 2 goals). My friend was Spanish and beforehand raved about Barca’s “Dream Team”.
“Also, as a United fan, my folks got me an Inter shirt with Ince on the back after he moved. I thought I was the absolute business.”
He rattles off the names of his heroes, ingrained from when he began following United as a five year old.
“Bryan Robson the power, industry, the goals, that leadership, then Cantona… he is just Eric… Finally, Becks,” he said.
“Beckham is my all time favourite player. That combo of work-rate, stamina and then of course the range of passing and that technique!
“The first modern superstar in many ways, the clothes, the haircuts. I think a lot of people forget how good he was!
“But I was also fascinated by Gazzetta Italia, particularly Baggio, Maldini, Batistuta and Gullit on Saturday mornings. The glamour, the kits, the stadium names.
“Serie A was the place before the Premier league exploded to what it is.”
Watching Stockport County in the early 90s was Barrow’s first game, but his memories of big match atmosphere go back 10 years earlier on visits to family in Rusholme, near Manchester City’s Maine Road ground.
“You could hear the crowd on match days,” he recalled.
“My first United match was United v City, a 3-2 win at Maine Road, with Giggs scoring a last minute winner (1996), we watched from the away end so I had to hold back the celebrations!”
Film buff Barrow finds a link between the drama of such moments, captured on the pitch as well as those gripping scenes from block buster movies.
“I grew up in a pub so that’s a central narrative for banter/conversation. But more so, I love the stories, the narratives, the passion, the moments,” he said.
“I love an underdog story or similar. I’m a big movie and sports fan in general. So moments stick in my mind from Roger Milla dancing at Italia 90 or Cantona’s celebration after “that goal”.
“Rocky is one my all time favourite movies and the metaphors in sport/film and the parallels for the challenges we face day to day, it’s just inspiring and captivating. “Sometimes you couldn’t write these scripts!”
Barrow took to photography 15 years ago, initially buying a cheap digital camera to record family life and trips away, before upgrading his equipment. But the interest in all things visual has always been there.
“My kit is my Fuji XT100, which photography experts might say is entry level, but what really makes the difference is the lens, a FUJIFILM XF 35MM F/2.0 R WR. Gives great clarity, real depth & detail.
“Plus, the fact it’s a fixed 35mm really challenged my composition and creative skills. Good camera, great lens.
“I’ve always been fascinated by images, tearing them from magazines and saving them. I love to draw too. Then through my studies (in marketing, fashion & earlier in media/film) that visual element has been there.
“I took the step in 2015 to get my first proper camera after my brother encouraged me. I’m not necessarily the most technical photographer but composition, light/shadow and creativity are more my thing.
“Scenes from movies stick in my mind very clearly for a long time after watching. Angles, colours, story-telling… people like Greig Fraser or movies like Star Wars, The Heat or The Dark Knight.”
He appreciates the work and expertise of other photographers.
“Greg Williams, the official Bond photographer is all about story-telling, light and angles. Or Ernst Haas who is one of the best photographers of the 20th century, his New York shots in the 50s/60s are insane!”
If you enjoyed that, you may also like An eye for the Ultra, where photographer and Inter Milan supporter Francesca Scandella focuses on Italian football culture and style.