Danish freelance animator and art director Kasper Nyman says he was never keen on going to school in the traditional sense. “When I was young, I just wanted to play sports and do creative stuff. Academics wasn’t my thing.” Upon graduating high school, Kasper was able to both play sports and do creative stuff, resulting in him playing semi-professional basketball as well as getting a degree in graphic design.
When Kasper finished his degree at 18, he immediately began working as a graphic designer, first for an agency for three years, then as a freelancer. He moved to Copenhagen to work for an agency for another three years before becoming freelancer once again. Six years later, he still works for himself.
All the while, he was playing basketball at semi-professional level; first in Aalborg and then in Copenhagen. “When I started freelancing again after three years in the Copenhagen-based agency, ” he explains, “I went from first to second division basketball. I still play with friends, but I’m not semi-professional any more.”
Kasper’s graphics business has grown, with him creating films and graphics for brands like Nike and Bleacher Report. He’s been able to combine his strong skill set and love of basketball; you can tell from his work that he’s passionate about the game, from the moves to the shoes.
But expressing that passion through motion graphics wasn’t enough: Kasper wanted a project through which he could travel the world playing basketball and taking photographs. So “Cities of Basketball” was born. This ongoing photo project began in 2013. Kasper chooses a city and connects, usually through Instagram, with locals there, and begins his research. “I find out where the best basketball courts in the city are located. I map it all out before I get there. Then I go to the city, rent a car, and drive from court to court.”
Kasper photographs outdoor basketball courts totally empty, often then playing a game of pick-up with locals after he does so. “I like to photograph the courts empty because, to me, it feels like the calm before the storm. I really like that feeling, what you feel before a game.” In doing so, he also captures the unique city around the court. It makes his image powerful; capturing a mix of sport and architecture that says something more about how the city uses public space.
Nyman has now travelled to 21 cities to carry out the project (he calls this “collecting courts”), sometimes finding that there aren’t many basketball courts, or that they go unused. “There are only 12 outdoor courts in Oslo,” Kasper notes, “And in Amsterdam many of the ones I found are not in use. It shows to how much basketball is accepted within that city and country. It’s really just started to become popular in Denmark in the last ten years.”
So then what was his catalyst for becoming a basketball player and fan? Kasper laughs when I ask. “Honestly, it was Space Jam. When that came out, it changed my life. I saw Michael Jordan for the first time and it was so big for me. That’s also why my favorite shoes are the Air Jordan I and XI.”
Scrolling through images of “Cities of Basketball,” it’s clear that Kasper’s youthful fascination with the sport has become so much more than that. It’s a medium for travel, a lens through which to view space, a way to interact with local people, a universal language.
“I’d love to have an exhibition of all the courts eventually,” Kasper tells me, “but there’s no deadline for this project. For me, it’s about basketball. That’s why I enjoy it.”
Buy a “Cities of Basketball” poster here!