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Marie-Amélie Tondu basketball girls
Marie-Amélie Tondu

Photographing teen girl rivalry in the Paris suburbs

Tucked away in the outskirts of the French capital, nine best friends go head-to-head on the basketball courts in a display of camaraderie and passion

In collaboration with Canon, this winter, three photographers will travel across Europe with their cameras to capture in the low light of the season, a selection of the subcultures bubbling under the surface of some of the continent’s most exciting cities in order to tell the stories behind them

A bit of rivalry is never a bad thing if it’s channelled in the right way – or at least in the way that a gang of female basketballers, based in the suburbs of Paris, do. Hitting the courts hard even in the chilliest months of the year, a group of teenage girls, with their take-no-prisoners attitude, captured the attention of French photographer Marie-Amélie Tondu who knew that she needed to shoot them, after stumbling upon them while on her way to a baseball game. Intrigued by their fearlessness, she stopped to swap phone numbers with them. “I saw these girls waiting before starting their match, and they were particularly fascinating – talking and laughing before playing”, Tondu remembers. “I was in a hurry but had to take a moment to talk to them because it was absolutely necessary that I saw them again!”

Keeping in contact, she photographed the nine girls and best friends at their local sports centre for a series in collaboration with Canon, capturing them in the redolent low light of winter dawning across Europe. “It’s a passion, and a sport that is very important for them – it conveys beautiful values”, she explains. “It’s a pretty photogenic sport, in my opinion, and girls who play it often have a strong character – a gentle and aggressive side at the same time. I find them beautiful when they play.”

“It’s an opportunity to be together, develop team spirit, complicity and cohesion. Share the victories as well as the defeats” – Marie-Amélie Tondu

Brought together through their friendships with one-another and their passion for sport, which, Tondu says, not even the frosty French winter can put a stop to. “They have a crazy energy when they are all together. At first they are a little cold, but once they start playing they don’t feel anything! I followed them a whole afternoon until night and they never complained. They just drank hot chocolate to regain their strength, but once they are on the court, they’re fine – some were even in t-shirts!” she recalls.

Despite their fierce characters, Tondu says that the girls are just like regular 15 and 16-year-old girls, gathering around the edges of the courts to gossip and hang out. “It's an opportunity to be together, develop team spirit, complicity and cohesion. Share the victories as well as the defeats”, she says. And – once the whistle has blown – life continues off the court, with all rivalries put aside until the next game. “They are typical teenagers. They go to highschool, do their homework, see their friends, talk about boys and tease each other. They are all very close.”

Keep up with Tondu by following her on twitter and glimpse more European winter photographs by using the Instagram hashtags #comeandsee and #CanonWinter