How I Got the Photo – Giovanni Capriotti
2016 NPOY PICTURE STORY FEATURE Finalist – A profile of the Muddy York Rugby Football Club, Toronto’s only inclusive gay rugby team. (Giovanni Capriotti)
I met the Muddy York Rugby Football Club (RFC) for the first time in 2010, during the Pride and Remembrance Run in Toronto. I immediately became curious about the inclusive gay rugby team. I thought about the team again in the Fall of 2014 during the third semester of my photojournalism studies at Loyalist College. One of the assignments was to provide three story ideas per week for Patti Gower‘s class.
After I graduated in May 2015, I thought about the story again and I shot the first part in the period of two weeks after having pitched the idea to Moe Doiron at The Globe and Mail. During Pride, the story got published in The Globe and gained a discrete success.
In December 2015, Muddy York RFC got in touch with me and proposed that I continue shooting the story as the team was heading to Nashville in May 2016 for the Bingham Cup. This is the largest rugby event on the planet, after the IRB World Cup, and is often labelled as the LGBTQ rugby World Championship. It is then when I gained complete access to the team’s activities, both on and off the pitch, and subsequently into the players’ lives. Over the course of seven months in 2016, I was able to complete the project.
One of the main challenges I faced was being accepted by the team. I also had to take into account all the inherent group dynamics and the different personalities and backgrounds of the players. Some of the team members had been bullied in the past and it took a while for them to get comfortable with a photographer around. Sensitivity was a must.
When editing the story, my idea was to create a sequence that highlighted the deconstruction and description of masculinity within sport performance. The challenge was to go through roughly 1,000 pictures and pick the images that best suited the story.
I realized that despite living in a progressive and open society that endeavours to accept everybody, there are still some grey areas, mostly in the form of stereotypes. Sport should be inclusive and promote aggregation. Unfortunately if we need “inclusive” rugby sides, there is still a lot to do in terms of fostering acceptance.