Photography fuelled by a passion for football, allows you to truly see the lifeblood that keeps our game alive. It goes beyond the pitch, the boardrooms, the suits and the ties, and takes you in amongst the blood, sweat and tears of fans with clenched fists, veins pulsing, and eyes bulging.
Lower Block’s curation of the very best photographic content from around the world is a celebration of football culture, lifestyle and community – the beating heart of everything that defines football. To me, Lower Block serves as a reminder that, in the end, it’s the people, the stories, and the love for the beautiful game that truly matters.
At the core of Lower Block’s philosophy lies an appreciation for the authentic, unfiltered football experience. Unlike the polished world of professional football, Lower Block turns its lens towards real people and their passion for football.
Lower Block collaborates with some of the most genuinely talented photographers across the world, producing photo zines that celebrate various aspects of football culture.
They currently have 20 editions in circulation since they started printing last Nov and have sold 1000s of copies. Lower Block captures and brings to life the raw emotions, genuine expressions, and unadulterated love that fans have for their clubs and the sport. It’s about authenticity, real people and real passion.
Their zines take you on a journey that documents the drama, the joy, the heartbreak, and the human spirit that characterises football. They explore the rich heritage of the San Siro and capture the streets and murals that surround Leeds United and their home, Elland Road. They share the ecstasy of Glasgow Rangers 55th league title and relive the tears and troubles of Celtic’s 1993-94 season. There are tribes and tifos, moments and memories throughout each collection that portray the very essence of football.
“Football has always been part of my life, put simply – I love it,” explains Editor, and founder of Lower Block, Matt. “For me, football started with playing the game. As a kid, all I wanted was to be a professional. I played all the time – from an early age right through to University level and then into my late 30s. Of course, I was never good enough!”
Matt’s passion for football culture is palpable and it’s clear to see that is the driving force behind Lower Block’s authenticity, “So many elements of life can be found within and around the game; the euphoric joy and the crushing despair. It’s this passion that brings people together that gives them a sense of belonging. Great photography, in context, is hard to beat as a way of visually expressing or communicating something. It deserves to be properly showcased, not only so it can be enjoyed by a wider audience, but also to inspire and evoke emotions in that audience.”
Lower Block isn’t just about curating photographs; it’s also about building a global community that shares a common love for the beautiful game. What Matt has managed to do, is bring together fans, photographers, and storytellers from all corners of the world, fostering connections and an understanding of what it means to be completely and utterly seduced by football. It provides a platform for individuals to share their stories, experiences, and perspectives, creating a sense of unity that transcends borders and languages.
The name, Lower Block, derives from where working-class football supporters traditionally stood – in a block in the lower tier behind one of the goals. The Lower Block was the heartland of working-class football supporters. It was a place where individuals from different walks of life could come together to celebrate their love of the club. These fans all shared a common bond—a deep affinity for the team, the players, and the traditions that surrounded their club. The camaraderie in the Lower Block was unmatched.
Football has of course changed, and moved on from those days and the very values on which football was built are fading away against the landscape and spectre of state-of-the-art stadiums, which have replaced the terraces and where cappuccinos and lattes accompany smashed avocado and humus on the luxurious padded seats of the elite.
However, the enduring spirit and character of those days still live on through every carefully curated image that Lower Block brings to life. Every zine produced by Matt is a reminder that football still belongs to the people.
“I’m not quite sure how my love of football started – it honestly just feels like football has always been there,” Matt says with a smile as he thinks for a moment. “My Dad loves football, and I benefitted from having a brother only two years apart from me so we were able to play together; in the garden, in the living room, you name it – we were never far from a ball and we both lived in football kits. Naturally, all our mates loved football. For years I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like football!
Many of us who love the game can share Matt’s sentiments. The innocence of youth where we would spend endless days pretending to be our heroes, and imagine scoring last-minute goals and receiving the adulation of an adoring crowd, fades away over time and as we grow older, we move away from the green grass of our garden with our friends and into the office with our colleagues where responsibilities loom large.
Lower Block though takes us back to those days and into a community where there is a sense of belonging and a shared passion for a game that promises to hold onto us tightly, right until the final whistle.
It was a pleasure for The Atlantic Dispatch to sit down with Matt as he shared with us his very own memories of football, why he started Lower Block and why he feels that Football has the power to do so much good.
I loved the icons and the ‘rock star’ footballers
Aside from playing the game, I’ve always been influenced by the culture and aesthetics of the game. I loved it all. The kits, the stadiums, the opening credits to TV shows like Match of the Day or Football Focus. I could never get enough of it. Born in the 80s, I’m a real 90s kid so the birth of the Premier League was huge for me. I actually liked how it was all sensationalised.
I loved the icons and the ‘rock star’ footballers. Gazza in Italia 90, Baggio in 94. I went to all the Wembley games in Euro 96, a tournament that so nearly had everything. I even remember thinking how cool the ‘Dentist Chair’ looked when it was splashed across the front of the News of the World.
As a kid, going to Euro 96 was hard to beat. But in 2006 me a bunch of mates headed to Berlin for the World Cup. We didn’t watch a single match in a stadium, but the atmosphere, day and night in all the bars and clubs was brilliant.
The Berlin ‘Fan Mile’ was amazing; three giant screens that all showed different matches throughout the day and then turned into different clubs with different music in the evening. There were loads of England fans, as well as other nations, doing the same thing. There was no trouble, just good fun.
Personally, I’m not what you might describe as a tourist fan – so I don’t go and watch club matches as a neutral. I love watching my team, and away experiences are always special – especially derbies – I’d take them (as long as we win!) any day over watching the Classico or Milan derby for example as a neutral.
It’s about documenting and celebrating football culture through great photography
I’m not a photographer but I had worked as a national newspaper picture editor for nearly 20 years, and wanted to try and do something that I was more authentically aligned with.
Part of that was also to do with the long hours and personal sacrifices you have to put in with newspaper media that doesn’t mix particularly well with having a young family. I was fortunate that I’d had a decent career and was able to make a change.
Lower Block was simply born out of me combining my industry experience with something that I’m truly passionate about. There are so many elements to so many different subcultures around the game – and some great photographers out there who all shoot in their own unique way.
Too much visual content is just posted on social media – I wanted to create a platform so that projects could be curated and celebrated. It’s all about documenting and celebrating football culture through great photography.
After a year or so of just producing digital photographic features – It seemed like a natural step to turn some of the more popular features into print and see how they work out.
The zines aren’t supposed to be complicated, sophisticated pieces of work. It’s about getting great photography into the right hands – at an affordable price. It helps put some money back into the pockets of photographers, in a digital world where so much of what they produce is devalued by the sheer volume of content out there or people just ripping off photography to build their own media profiles.
I like all the zines because of how unique they are in terms of the subject matter and the photographer’s style. Some are contemporary projects, celebrating stadium architecture or a moment in a club’s history, and some are archival projects, taking in a moment in football history or providing a lasting record of how things once were.
I love the Boogie (renowned street photographer) zine on Napoli fans celebrating winning the league, John Ingledew’s historic pictures of Chelsea fans in the 80s are fantastic – one picture in particular I love is of two female punks in a bar in Soho in the early 80s – one proudly showing off her ‘Chelsea Skins’ tattoo. The real high for me is being able to support photography and photographers in my own way.
Football is absolutely for everyone
I think football culture has always been strong, especially in this country – perhaps not always for the right reasons, but it depends on what you’re into. For example, I speak to loads of fans who long for the 70s and 80s.
I think what’s happened in the last few years is that football has become more accessible and appealing to a much wider audience and certain aspects of that have sort of made it a bit hip, for want of a better word.
The only vintage shirts I own are from the team I support – that were bought for me growing up (so they’re either too small or ridiculously big!). I’ve not bought a football shirt since my teens.
Football is absolutely for everyone. Playing it and watching it. And that’s what makes it so special and unique, not just in comparison to other sports or hobbies, but for each fan. You can find all elements of life in football. The good and the bad. The joy and despair. The love and the hate.
For me, (and for everyone, I’d suggest) it’s very personal. I played football with my brother and my mates, watched football with friends down the pub, go to games with my old man. Football has influenced the clothes I wear and the music I listen to. Every time I hear Blur’s Song 2 I just think about FIFA98.
Playing the game teaches you so much. It’s not just teamwork and leadership. It teaches you how to communicate as part of a team. Support your mates. Listen to tactical advice. How to be resilient and overcome hardship (getting subbed off when you’re 8 years old hurts like hell!). Skills that are crucial to both work and personal life. As a supporter, it can also give people a sense of identity, and community, and feel supported within society.
Football has the power to do so much good
Documenting the game, just the same as life – has to include everything. Life isn’t all winning, joy and celebration. Life is full of mistakes. History is full of mistakes. But we only learn retrospectively.
I want Lower Block and the photo projects we take on to always be balanced. Photography is an art and a way of documenting a reality or a person’s reality – whether that’s good or bad, right or wrong. We’ve got loads of great projects lined up. I’d love to have a curated collection of zines that cover as many different clubs and aspects of football culture as possible!
Football represents a massive cross-section of society and so can be hugely influential in terms of education and development. Football has the power to do so much good. I think it gets unfairly beaten with a stick by parts of the media and non-football fans. It plays a massive part in trying to tackle issues that plague society such as racism, sexism and homophobia (things can always be better).
With thanks to the absoloute gentleman that is Matt.
The San Siro, taken from Forza San Siro. Alex Amorós / Lower Block
Millwall lion, taken from No One Likes Us. Jerome Favre / Lower Block
Chelsea Skins, taken from The Famous CFC. John Ingledew / Lower Block
Stadio San Nicola, Bari, taken from Campo da Calcio. Danny Last / Lower Block
Napoli title celebrations, taken from Napoli – Campioni d’Italia. Boogie / Lower Block