Hirving Lozano is PSV Eindhoven’s revelation of the season. The Mexican superstar is well on his way to becoming the Dutch Eredivisie’s top scorer and it seems like a matter of time before he’ll transfer to a major league. I thought it’d be interesting to focus on Lozano for one entire game. These are my thoughts and the resulting images.
Shooting Hirving Lozano’s story
First off, let me emphasise that I’m not your typical sports photographer. I hardly ever shoot games from the sidelines. Instead, I prefer to work with the athlete and show their character and hard work in my photos. However, the breakthrough of Lozano at PSV Eindhoven has fascinated many viewers in The Netherlands. This prompted me to approach shooting a game from Lozano’s perspective, and show how he experiences a game. My goal wasn’t to shoot the typical action shots you see in the after action reviews online and in newspapers. In sticking with my aim to lend the images a cinematic quality, I wanted to approach the game like a story, Hirving Lozano’s story.
Interested in reading more about my process? Here’s what drives my in photographing athletes
Who’s this Mexican superstar?
Just in case you’re not into football too much or need a refresher, here’s a super short bio of Hirving Lozano. This PSV player grew up in Mexico City and has played for CF Pachuca since he was ten years old. In 2014 he played his first match for the club’s first squad at just 18 years old. He got off to a good start: after just five minutes, Lozano scored the winning and only goal of the game.
In 2017, Hirving Lozano moved from Pachuca to PSV Eindhoven, in a deal reportedly worth 8 to 12 million euros. Only 30 minutes into his first Eredivisie game for PSV, he scored his first goal for the club. Since then, he scored in seven out of his first eight games for PSV. His performance since the start of the season dropped slightly, with Lozano missing a number of games due to being shown two red cards in one season. There’s generally no doubt the Mexican will move to a big club in a major competition sooner rather than later though. What’s more, Lozano is hugely popular in his home country of Mexico, earning PSV Eindhoven quite some additional exposure on social media and revenue from merchandising.
PSV was playing Sparta from Rotterdam this particular game. Sparta usually ranks somewhere in the lower third of the league table, so this match should be easy. However, PSV has made it a habit this season to not score too many goals too early in the game. This has led to some close calls, even against opponents that should normally be a walk in the park. The game against Sparta was no different. 45 minutes in, both teams’ keepers still hadn’t conceded a single goal.
I had set up behind Sparta’s goal, slightly to the right, expecting to see Lozano acting as a left winger. Of course, things always work out differently, Philip Cocu opted to switch Lozano to the right side of the field. I quickly made my way across the stadium to the other side of the goal, hauling a super heavy 400mm lens and two cameras.
The challenge during this game was to pick out the little moments that showed some of Hirving Lozano’s character and fighting spirit. With 22 players on the pitch, each player will only be in possession of the ball just over 4 minutes in a game. Of course a big team like PSV will have a bit more possession than some smaller teams. I feel that this is offset by a winger not being an important link like some midfielders are. What’s more, wingers will be more aggressively covered by the other teams’ defenders, and utilise a riskier playing style. Long story short, the moments I could capture Lozano in possession of the ball would be sparse.
This wasn’t too much of a problem though. I actually like adding to the action shots with some more at ease shots, that could best be described as unposed portraits. Playing style is an important factor in showing an athlete’s character, but the moments where he’s standing still, watching and analysing can tell just as much.
Unfortunately, Lozano did not play his best match of the season by far. Luuk de Jong scored the game’s only goal just after half time, and the match pretty much went out like a candle after that. I feel like the series could’ve been stronger if Lozano had scored or at least presented more of a threat to the opponent. This is always a matter of getting a bit lucky though, there’s no way to predict who will be the big heroes in any particular game. But perhaps this disappointing performance and the way Lozano dealt with it while he was playing are telling nonetheless.
A small gift I did happily unpack was the bad weather this night. I’d seen some photos of heavy snowfall during football games and was hoping for snowflakes this night as well. The next best thing is exactly what happened: a decent drizzle, just enough to be visible. Somehow the photo shown below perfectly captures Lozano’s night for me. A Latino player trying to make it in rainy Northern Euope,not quite enjoying himself this particular night. Like a fish out of water, though the saying may not quite apply in this particular scenario. Of course this was just my interpretation for this specific night, in general I feel Lozano is an amazing player and a huge asset to the PSV Eindhoven side.
Results of focusing on Hirving Lozano for an entire game
When processing the images, I tried to attain a somewhat cinematic finishing. Of course the wide crop helped heaps there. I also tried to tone the images to look like stills from a movie. In general I really like to process my images to be somewhat moody and dark. This helps focus attention on the person and lends the photo a feeling.
This experience of shooting a game focussing on one player only was quite an excellent creative exercise. It has helped develop my storytelling skills and is an approach I will definitely try again. I feel that football in specific and sports in general could benefit from a storytelling approach. The conventional highlights have been covered the same way for ages, and I’d love to contribute something fresh.