Vasiliy Kolotilov found out about an American football league in Russia where most people discover bizarre, out-of-the-ordinary things: the internet. After a bit of investigation, he pitched a piece on the Spartans — a local football team in Moscow — to a newspaper. In March, he attended some training sessions and published the article. But that wasn’t enough.
“I wanted to spend more time with these guys,” he said.
Until October, Mr. Kolotilov embedded himself with the Spartans as they played biweekly games among roughly 20 teams across Russia. His work boasts few photographs of tackles or catches. Instead, he looked off the field: in locker rooms, social activities and the everyday lives of players.
“The whole idea was not to show the game itself,” Mr. Kolotilov said, “but to show what’s behind it.”
In his photographs, players barbecue and share drinks in one another’s homes, they place tape over their nipple rings before donning pads and jerseys,…