Hoops photography exhibition shows basketball’s universal appeal

Scenic, improvised and dilapidated basketball courts around the world are documented in these photographs by Bill Bamberger, which form an exhibition at Washington DC’s National Building Museum.

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
The Hoops exhibition include photos of basketball courts all over the world, like in this backyard in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, or a school playground in Harlem (main image)

Titled Hoops, the exhibit proves that anywhere can be turned into a basketball practice space by simply mounting a backboard and a hoop onto an elevated vertical surface.

Bamberger‘s large-format photos present both private and public courts, but the most compelling in the series are ones that show the ad-hoc, run-down equipment in urban or remote settings.

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
At a primary school in Guatemala, the court is housed under a corrugated metal roof

“Although the game’s standard equipment is simple and well known, Bamberger’s colour photographs show us that the permutations for a basketball court and backboard are nearly endless,” said a statement from the museum.

“The design and construction of these spaces reveal as much about the communities in which they reside as they do about the game itself.”

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
A hoop and backboard are attached to a huge concrete grain silo in Portland, Oregon

Unexpected locations that appear in Bamberger’s photo set include a grain silo in Oregon, a dusty cactus-strewn park in Arizona, and an abandoned campsite in rural Tennessee.

Others are more recognisable, like domestic garages, driveways, backyards and urban public spaces.

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
In Rwanda, orange-coloured dirt provides a playing surface next to a church

Most of the images were taken across the USA, but a handful show courts in Rwanda, Namibia, Mexico and Guatemala.

Those in Rwanda depict orange dirt ground used as courts, and wooden poles and backboards, at a primary school and a church playground.

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
Simple metal poles and hoops are used by children at a primary school in Namibia

Meanwhile in Namibia, another school’s pupils use simple hoops mounted on metal poles when playing on a concrete surface.

“Hauntingly devoid of people, Bamberger’s photographs are nonetheless neighbourhood and community portraits, reflecting basketball’s universal appeal and ability to dissolve demographic, ethnic, and regional barriers,” the museum’s statement said.

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
Apartments in a Mexico City tower block overlook a basketball court created in the courtyard space

Some of the courts are covered in colourful graphics, as seen at the Goodman League and a primary school in DC, while others have graffiti on the surrounding walls.

Many basketball courts feature brightly hued playing surfaces – other examples include spaces in Paris, St Louis, New York City, Aalst and Mexico City.

Hoops photography exhibition at National Building Museum
Sedona’s dramatic landscape provides a backdrop for this public court

Hoops is on show at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW, from 9 March 2019 to 5 January 2020.

Other photographers that have captured sports courts around the world include Ward Roberts, who presents the pockets of space in pastel shades.

Photographs are copyright Bill Bamberger.

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