Few things say neglect quite like an unhinged, bent up, rusty-peely netless basketball hoop. It’s a sad sight, often evoking more than its own decay. The weathering, though, does hold great documentary appeal, as Paris-based photographer Adrian Skenderovic illustrates.
His "Lost Hoops" series catalogs the ramshackle basketball courts of Southeast Asia. (He likes to keep the exact locations a secret.) The structures—some made from concrete and plexiglass, others out of riffraff—are in a sorry state. They’re covered in grime, soiled by water stains, and, in some cases, completely lacking a hoop at all.
Despite appearances, however, these courts remain in frequent use, Skenderovic tells Co.Design. "Those hoops looks neglected, but in reality people are still playing with them, even with the most tired ones. They’re still an essential institution in the local community."
That last point touches on what makes these basketball posts so poignant. In nearly all parts of the world, in neighborhoods of every level of poverty to wealth, you’ll find some kind of a sports court. Whether it’s snazzy and new or makeshift, it represents a coming together of the community—a place to compete, hang out, hash it out. When the community falters or fractures, it shows in the environment, including its basketball hoop.
Well, that’s one explanation, anyway. The photographs also appeal to the Internet’s seemingly insatiable lust for ruins. Abandoned factories, gutted buildings, ghost cities, decaying hospitals, crumbling theaters, empty motel pools. In most cases, these structures are unremarkable were they in top form. But add a layer of patina, heavy doses of oxidation, and unruly spools of ivy, and…let the romance begin.
Of course, Skenderovic’s photographs frame more than the hoops. Palm and banana trees stud the backgrounds of his images, forming a lush, green mass, an untamable bit of nature that contrasts with the hardtop courts and the stark white geometry of backboards. The effect is kind of like coming across a stop sign on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
For Skenderovic, the hoops take on near anthropomorphic character. "Their homemade look caught my eyes. They have all their own personality, their own story," he says. They’re avatars of the isolated but lively villages he spent weeks exploring via moped. The grand takeaway? Sometimes a basketball hoop isn’t just a basketball hoop.