Martina Cirese
The Dark Side of Sport

It is a story of shattered dreams and traumatised young athletes: Martina Cirese photographs victims of sexual violence, and their families, in France. A 21-year-old swimmer, two triathletes, ten and 15 years old respectively, and a former table-tennis player in his forties tell their horrific tales, which Cirese captures in sensitive portraits. The photographer visits her subjects at home, accompanies them to their training sessions and to the places where the sexual attacks took place. She hides their faces to protect their identities, yet nonetheless shows their resilience. Many of the culprits continue to coach children – in football, gymnastics, track and field, archery, roller skating or chess. Every second one has already been convicted of earlier sexual crimes. This reveals grave defects in the clubs, local and national authorities and the justice system. The victims seek justice and struggle to be heard.

  • Abuse
  • Youth

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Interview with Martina Cirese.

3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

In 2014 I was awarded a one-year scholarship in FABRICA – The Benetton Communication Research Centre (Treviso, Italy). My first assignment was the UNHATE campaign focused on the LGBTQ rights in Russia. The concept was to fictionally stage a Gay Pride in Moscow and share it online as it was happening during the Sochi Olympic Games. I had never worked in a studio before: I was afraid not to be the right photographer for the job. Then I decided to use my storytelling background as a guide during the shooting. The team was happy and surprised by the result. That’s when I learned to trust my vision.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

November 2011. I was in Paris when I met Asankojo. I followed him like a trail, a clue, a hint. As we chased each other across Europe and Asia, I was led into two intertwined, superimposed worlds: a fickle city, that revealed and hid itself, and Asan, portrayed more as an entity than a person, a mentor, a spiritual guide. Throughout our visceral relationship I’ve realised that I could tell a personal and universal story at once, seeking the psychological effects of contemporary social and technological development. Why photography? The camera was light enough to be carried around the world!

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

Shameless, independent and committed. As I’ve seen collaborating with the French NGO Disclose: the investigations could be carried on a long-term basis by highly skilled experts of different disciplines, funded by private donators. Imagine an international factory of multimedia storytellers: visual artists, writers, journalists, musicians, but also researchers, sociologists, philosophers, psychologists! This could be our future: constantly challenging the use of the medium of photography, contaminating it, pushing beyond the limits the boundaries of the documentary approach.

Found in Research


Curated by Nicole Heinsohn

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1988 in Rome, Italy
Martina Cirese studied Photography at the ISFCI in Rome and History at the Sorbonne in Paris, where she researched totalitarian regimes. Since 2012 she has been working as a freelance photographer, primarily for women’s and LGBTQ campaigns by the Unhate Foundation of United Colors of Benetton. Her works have appeared in GEO, The Guardian, National Geographic, Time and other publications.


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