Tag Archives: soccer

Behind the Cover: Photographing Super Mario

Like many famous athletes, Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli has developed a reputation for outlandish behavior. But photographer Levon Biss was not worried during his recent TIME International cover shoot with the star, who is currently playing for the British football club Manchester City.

(Read More: Mario Balotelli: The Infamously Mercurial Brilliance of the Soccer Star)

“His personality is very shy, actually,” said Biss. “He wears outrageous clothes and sometimes on the football pitch he does outrageous things, but as a person he is not outrageous, he is very, very shy.”

The shoot did get off to a slightly rocky start when Balotelli arrived at the studio Biss had set up at Manchester City’s training grounds. “He walked in and there were 12 or 13 people in there,” Biss explained. “I think he got quite nervous and walked straight back out again. We had to wait another half-hour for him to come back.”

Despite the delay, the shoot eventually went off without a hitch. To compensate for Balotelli’s discomfort, Biss focused on stylized portraits, rather than action shots. “He looks quite interesting, so you don’t need to do much with him,” said Biss. “He’s got quite a brooding character, so we tried to enhance that with a bit of red lighting and keep the images quite graphic.”

This is not an unusual approach when photographing athletes, who unlike actors and other celebrities, said Biss, are not used to performing for the camera. “These are sports people,” he said. “You have to hinge on what you can do photographically instead of relying on them to come through with a shining personality.”

Biss makes sure to work fast and use a straightforward, no nonsense approach, similar to what his subjects would encounter on the field. Most importantly, Biss, said is keeping the sessions short and sweet.

“They want to be out of there,” said Biss. “If you can get on their side by saying ‘look we’ve got an hour but we can do this in half an hour,’ you are automatically their friend and they will give you what you want straight away.”

Levon Biss is a London-based photographer and regular contributor to TIME.

Pictures of the Week: June 15 – 22

From Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel lecture in Norway and the death of Rodney King in California to violent mining strikes in Spain and a New Democracy in Greece, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: June 8 – June 15

From sectarian violence in Myanmar and wildfires in Colorado to protests in Egypt and the Euro 2012 soccer championships in Poland and Ukraine, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: May 25–June 1

From Memorial Day observances in the U.S. and an exchange of bodies in the West Bank to the massacre in Syria and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in England, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: May 11 – May 18

From violence in Colombia and a huge fire in Manila to soccer championships across Europe and the presidential handover ceremony in France, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: April 27 – May 4

From rescue operations for a capsized ferry in India and May Day protests to elections in France and preparations for the Kentucky Derby, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: March 16 — March 23, 2012

From Aung San Suu Kyi’s election campaign and the mourning of the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo to protests for Trayvon Martin and the celebration of the Afghan New Year, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.