An exhibition documenting the unique and alternative fan subculture surrounding German football club FC Sankt Pauli has opened to the public at Birmingham City University.
‘Sometimes Antisocial, Always Antifascist’, hosted by the School of Visual Communication at the University’s Parkside Gallery, features the first public show of 27 striking images produced by editorial and documentary photographer and academic Conrad Tracy, who graduated with a Master’s degree from Birmingham City University (UCE) in 1996.
The club’s now global reputation as ‘the football home for those without a home in football’ grew from a group of socially conscious, left wing and punk FC St Pauli supporters in the mid-1980s.
After adopting the skull and crossbones as their flag, and embracing political activism, anti-establishmentarianism ideals and bohemian lifestyles, the club’s fan base – reported to have the largest number of female fans in German football – developed in stark contrast to the racism, fascism and hooliganism that plagued British and European football clubs during the 1980s.
Dorset-based photographer Conrad Tracy spent seven years visiting Hamburg and building relationships with the FC St Pauli community before capturing fans at home and away, and artwork around the club’s Millentor Stadion ground, as well as documenting a Brooklyn, NYC fan chapter.
Notably, as featured in the series on show, a number of hard-core fans choose to emulate the style and uniform of the British and Irish ‘Skinhead’, ‘Suedehead’ and ‘Rude Boy’ anti-fascist subcultures of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“The English game has suffered from years of mismanagement, corporate greed, fan apathy and the acceptance of a culture that is openly sexist and homophobic, and often racist and bigoted,” Tracy said, adding, “Sankt Pauli and its supporters offer an antidote to this.”
“In Germany fascism simmers barely below the surface at some Bundesliga clubs. However, in Hamburg there is an alternative in FC. Sankt Pauli, whose supporters define themselves as the antithesis of right-wing elements who hope to infiltrate football culture. The supporters are a living, breathing example of why not to judge people on appearance alone, fully embracing an ideology that rejects many of the stereotypes labelled at football supporters.”
“Skinheads, who are a large part of this project coming to fruition, use the motto; “Sometimes Anti-Social, Always Anti-Fascist”, as emblazoned on the entrance to their section of the ground. My work tries to capture a truly alternative attitude within football culture, introducing the viewer to the alternative spirit of FC Sankt Pauli and its community of supporters.”
Conrad Tracy has been photographing aspects of football culture, intermittently, over 20 years. Heads the BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course at AUB (Arts University Bournemouth) has freelanced for editorial clients, including the Observer Magazine and the Saturday and Sunday Times Magazines.
Other key themes that continue to be part of his photographic practice have looked at racism within the UK and ideas of class and masculinity.
His work has also been represented by both Photonica and Getty Images, for advertising and promotion. Conrad’s work has been exhibited nationally over the last 20 years and he continues to make personal work. Conrad chaired the War on Want Photography Award ‘Document’ 2010 as well as Co-curating an International Student Photography exhibition as part of New York Photography Festival 2010.
‘Sometimes Antisocial, Always Antifascist’ runs at Parkside Gallery, Birmingham City University until May 1.