This article originally appeared on VICE France
For more than 30 years, French photographer Kevin Couliau has roamed the globe looking for the greatest basketball courts around. His passion for the game started in his childhood, and culminated in his 2012 documentary Doin' It In The Park, in which he showcased New York's most iconic local courts and retraced the history of the city's pick-up basketball scene. Today, he works as a photographer and videographer on behalf of major brands, media and the NBA.
Whenever he's travelling around on assignments, he keeps an eye out – and his camera ready – for the most special places to shoot hoops. At his most recent photo exhibition in Paris, Sphère d'influence (Sphere of Influence), he showed his 50 greatest courtside shots. I met up with Kevin and asked him to narrow that selection down to his favourite nine photos, and explain what makes them so special to him.
"This is probably my favourite picture from the entire exhibition. After a Chicago screening of my documentary Doin' It in the Park in 2013, I walked down to the Washington Park courts. When I got there, these kids were playing 3 on 3, but as soon as they saw me taking pictures, they stopped and started posing. Players in New York and Chicago always seem to pose so naturally in front of a camera."
"For me, Hong Kong has the most beautiful courts in the world – the architecture, the colours and the cleanliness are second to none. It was very difficult to find this particular court – it's on the second floor of a car park and you have to take a lift to get to it."
"In 2014, I travelled with NBA star Gorgui Dieng to his hometown of Kébémer in north-west Senegal, on a project to renovate the local courts he played on as a kid. The guy posing in the photo is Gorgui's cousin, Adama Samb. So many young successful African athletes are currently investing their money into the communities they grew up in – this photo symbolises that move to me."
"As part of the documentary we made, we visited 180 courts across New York. This one in Brooklyn was hugely popular in the 1980s, but local kids eventually got bored and moved on to newer courts. I find this picture poetic, because some basketball players dominate the air with as much ease as these pigeons do."
"This photo was taken in Clybourn Park, Chicago in 2015. The court is famous for being one of the sets of the iconic 1994 film Hoop Dreams. I was really fortunate to come across these two kids playing the only time I ever actually went there."
"This is Bir-Hakeim playground, right below the Eiffel Tower. This photo has a lot of sentimental value for me because the court was demolished recently – replaced with one of those awful athletic stadiums that you see everywhere in the world. In my opinion, this was the most beautiful court in Paris."
"This was taken in 2013 in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, during our world tour for Doin' It. Most basketball fans would say New York is the sport's cultural home, but I found people in the Philippines were the most passionate. It's the national sport there – on the same street you can find five basketball hoops, 15 metres apart. But most players have very little equipment – the kids play barefoot or in flip-flops, and the rim is held up with large stones."
"This was taken in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. I was there to document an event called the Giants of Africa – a series of training camps that aims to deliver the next generation of great African basketball players. The 2017 edition took place in an American school, with this court set against one of the most stunning backdrops I've ever photographed. After all these years searching the world for the most beautiful courts, I can't believe I only discovered this one this year."
"This court is in New Jersey but I don't want to reveal where – I want people to find it for themselves. During the filming of Doin' it, we searched for a really long time before we found a special place to set the first scene. We arrived at sunrise so we could enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline. In the photo, you can see my co-director, Bobbito Garcia, taking a jump shot as I was preparing my equipment. This photo is very special to me, because I remember all the work we put in to get us to where we were, that particular morning."