In-excess of twenty thousand Instagram followers and a strong eye for a passionate game, Zahhar Borouhinn is somewhat of an enigma. Fourteen years old and capturing moments that personify football fandom, we caught up with him to discuss football, photography and whatever could be next.
Tell us about yourself, you're just 14 years old and already captured some incredible shots. When did photography and football cross paths for you?
"My name is Zahhar, and I am street photographer from London. I am Russian, originally from Estonia where I lived for 10 years. Well, I got my interest in photography for the first time around 2 and a half years ago when I was just 11 years old. I was in Spain on a 2 week family holiday and I just got my iPhone 4 a few days before the trip. Which meant I was obviously really excited to use it, and couldn't wait to test everything out. Spain was beautiful. So I guess I also wanted to show my friends what I did and what I saw. So I just started burst shooting pictures on my phone of everything I saw. And that's how photography came along really."
"I played football for around 6 years back in Estonia, before moving to London at the age of 11. So I pretty much loved football for my whole life. First time I properly shot a football game, was in May 2016, the FA Cup Final when Crystal Palace lost to Manchester United 2-1. On that day I spent a whole day out with the Crystal Palace fans, starting from Covent Garden in Central London and finishing the day off at the Wembley Stadium. It is still on of my most productive and favourite days in terms of photography."
Have you always been interested in photography? When did you first pick up a camera?
"Actually, no. First time I got my interest in photography was when I was 11 years old on a family holiday in Spain. My first "camera" was an iPhone 4 that I started shooting with. Later on for my 12th birthday I got an upgrade to an iPhone 5, which was really cool to start it off with and just practice. Then in a few months I found my mum's little "Point and Shoot Canon Powershot SX210" camera, and that was when I really started to learn all the basics in photography, such as aperture, exposure, composition, etc. . Considering the fact that I never read any books about all of the photography settings and stuff like that, this little camera was a huge step in my photography. My next camera was my first and only DSLR camera, the "Canon 550D" with the "18-55mm Kit Lens", which was more than enough for the things that I shot back then. I mainly shot the touristy things when I first got this camera. Such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge, etc. . Right now I still shoot with the same camera the "Canon 550D" and a "Sigma 30mm 1.4" lens."
You've built up a decent following - how did that come about? Was there a moment where people really caught on to what you're doing?
"For the past year I have not gained any following at all unfortunately. The reason for that might be that I changed my style of photography and my editing crucially. But I don't really take things such as likes and followers seriously. For me it's all about the content that a person produces, not about some numbers. I know so many amazing photographers on instagram that only have a few thousand or only a few hundred followers, but their work is so much better and unique than some people with a HUGE following."
"The moment when I started gaining the most amount of followers was when I mainly shot a lot of touristy locations such as Big Ben for example. I guess it's what people like to see because it is considered as "beautiful". Yes the architecture in London is stunning! However there is so much more to London than just buildings and bridges. For me London is about the people that live here. It is such a diverse city with so many different and unique people from different countries with lots of amazing cultures. And this is what in my opinion actually makes London beautiful!"
What do you go looking for where your photography is concerned, is football where your main focus is?
"As I already said, I am a street photographer. However I mainly just shoot cool stuff that I see while walking around or travelling. Lately I have definitely been in love with shooting football matches! There is so much action and passion in football fans, that I just can't stop shooting pictures of the games."
How much do you like being in the heart of the action? Your shots have a lot of natural energy because of your placement, do you feed off that?
"Yes, definitely. In my opinion to capture a moment well in such an energetic event, you need to be in that moment, and feel that moment yourself. I love being in the heart of it all. However it could be a little dangerous. For example when I shot the Tottenham - Millwall match a month ago, it all got quite violent before the match and also a little violent and afterwards too, when Millwall lost 6-0. I did get pushed a few times by both sets of fans, and at some point it did feel like someone is going to run out of nowhere and punch me in the face, but that is the fun part of it, in my opinion."
Where would you like to take your photography next? Is there anything you dream of shooting most?
"My main dream is to travel. See and experience new things. But also, I really want to make this one project idea that I have been thinking about for some time, realistic. The idea is that I want to travel around the world to different countries and cities, and shoot the biggest rivalries around the planet, and mix up travelling and exploring with football. This is definitely a goal I have put for myself that I want to achieve in the future."
What's the reaction been like when you tell someone your age? Do you feel like you're judged a little tougher than someone older might be?
"Haha. It depends what kind of a situation it is. Sometimes some people might treat or talk to me like to a child, which I still am though. I love my age. Not everyone had an opportunity to do photography at such a young age like mine. I am child, and quite a lot of the time I still act as a child. But in my opinion it is not a bad thing, but actually it's awesome! I also get cheap travel tickets. But most of the time people are actually more surprised with my age. I guess it's because there aren't many people at my age who are also interested in photography."
Tell us about you as a football fan - who's your team?
"I'm a Blue. I supported Chelsea since I was around 8/9 years old. In Estonia (where I am originally from) it is by far more popular to play football rather than watch it. I played football since I was around 5 years old for 6 years before I moved to London. But when I moved to England I realised how popular football is in this country, and that they don't just play it here, but also watch it A LOT. Chelsea was one of the only teams I knew before I moved to England so that was the reason why I chose them haha. Following on from the question about what dreams I have, I definitely have a dream of shooting for Chelsea one day! My favourite players in the league are N'Golo Kante, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. And my favourite youngster is Nathan Aké."
Are there any moments that have stuck out from football pieces you've shot? Do you have a favourite image you've captured?
"I didn't shoot many games yet. But one of my favourite moments was before the Arsenal - Lincoln City FA Cup quarter final match, when I spent a day with with the Lincoln fans. When I got on the train with a small group of the Lincoln fans, all of them starting singing and shouting. And in front of me there was a guy who was already really drunk however we had a really nice talk. He told me that he isn't a Lincoln fan at all, he is actually a Chelsea fan like me. But Lincoln was his hometown team, and that for him it was more about supporting his city rather than the club that day. We then sang some Chelsea songs together."
Having already made an impact at such a young age, just how big a name in the game have you set out to be?
"I don't see many people shooting football matches on Instagram at the moment, so I will just continue trying to be creative and improving while going to as many different derbies and rivalries as possible."
You can see more of Zahhar's work, here.