Emilien Buffard brings his Sport Friendly project to the French cultural network abroad!

Today, remaining neutral in the face of discrimination means taking a position in reality.

A French artist based in Buenos Aires, Emilien Buffard helps transform society through his art. An official entry in the Cultural Olympics in the run-up to the Paris 2024 Olympics, his Sport Friendly project promotes diversity through a book and exhibition featuring a wide range of Argentinian LGBTQI+ sports teams. Supported by the establishments of the French cultural network abroad, who were charged with photographing an inclusive team from their own city, Emilien Buffard is currently deploying his project, notably through an international exhibition available across the network from July 2024. In this interview, he talks about his journey, the Sport Friendly project and his message. 

Updated on 13/03/2024

5 min

Emilien Buffard
© Emilien Buffard

You are French, but you are based in Rosario. Can you tell us about your background and how you discovered Argentina? 

As part of my Master’s degree in “International and local charity project coordination”, I spent one year in Romania at a foundation that helps children on the streets. It was there that I met my Argentinian husband, who was working for another NGO. That’s where my history with Argentina began, and I decided to settle there after completing my Master’s in France.  

A little later, in 2017, I made a trip to Bolivia where I was told about the world’s second largest dried up, disappeared lake, Lake Poopó. I was intrigued because I studied for a BTS in water management and control before my Master’s. Wishing to find out more about this lake and its disappearance, I met a former fisherman and the President of the federation of lake fishing cooperatives. I subsequently impersonated a photojournalist, which was completely untrue, and together we went around the lake through the different villages there. Les orphelins du Poopó: récits d’un lac disparu, my first photographic project, was born from this adventure. 

I had always taken photographs, especially when travelling, but it was just a hobby. An exhibition and a book emerged from the Les orphelins du Poopó project, with the support of the Argentinian publisher Listocalisto, giving me the confidence and legitimacy to take on other subjects. 


Indeed, can you tell us about your Sport Friendly project, of particular interest to the Institut français and the French cultural network abroad?  

In 2019, I discovered the Yaguaretés, a multisports team based in Rosario. It welcomes all diversities and creates a space for them to express themselves. Training takes place in public spaces, which means it can operate without any funding, therefore removing the primary barrier to entry for the most disadvantaged. I found the Yaguaretés club and its approach fantastic. I felt at home in this team, where I was able to learn volleyball even though I wasn't very good at the start. 

Through the Yaguaretés, I went on to discover other clubs all over Argentina who share the same values. These teams are run by members of the LGBT community, but open to all. Through the prism of LGBT, I was therefore able to deal with diversity in the broadest sense because the players are men, women, non-binary, transgender, homosexual, heterosexual, small, large, disabled, of all sizes, from all social backgrounds, etc. 

Sport Friendly : le terrain de la diversité !
Exposition "Sport Friendly" - A gauche : au CCCC (Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporánea) de Valence (Espagne) / A droite : au Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno de Mendoza (Argentine).
© Emilien Buffard

I wanted to make these teams more visible by developing a national project. While playing volleyball with them, I started photographing the Yaguaretés and working on the aesthetics of the Sport Friendly project: a newsflash, like a spotlight on the players, their identity and their social claims. Later, I travelled all over Argentina to meet other sports teams run by members of the LGBTQI+ community. 

 As an artist, it is important for me to work on topics that speak to me and affect me directly. Before this project, I had always hated sport, especially the competitive rationale taught in schools. Since I wasn't good at sports, even my friends didn't want me on their team for fear of getting a bad score at the end of term. Thanks to the Sport Friendlyproject, I have now found my place on the pitch. Not necessarily as a player, but as a photographer. 

Album Sport Friendly, Emilien BUFFARD
Album Sport Friendly, Emilien BUFFARD

On the occasion of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Institut français is partnering with you to deploy the Sport Friendly project and offer the French cultural network abroad the chance to create a book and an international exhibition. What does this mean in practice? 

Alas, discrimination has no borders and inclusive teams are found in many countries, at least where the laws allow it. The idea is thus to make the project resonate more broadly, with 18 French Instituts and Alliances Françaises across 13 countries. Each establishment will identify an inclusive team in its city and recruit a photographer to photograph the players “in the Sport Friendly style”. To do this, I provide specifications to guarantee the aesthetics of the project. 

My team and I will put together a book and create an international exhibition from all the photographs and testimonials. Participating establishments will be able to host and present the exhibition on their premises or at partner institutions. This is a project that I would not have been able to develop alone, the support of the French cultural network abroad has been absolutely crucial to its success! 

I like working on series and concepts, thinking about the message I want to put forward with my photographs. The common thread of my work is to create a space for dialogue.

I am inspired by artist JR and his project Inside out, which allows anyone to share a portrait and message via a global platform. With the introduction of Sport Friendly, I am also creating an international collaborative project, in line with my motto: culture for social transformation.  

I like working on series and concepts, thinking about the message I want to put forward with my photographs. The common thread of my work is to create a space for dialogue, whether it be about environmental issues with Les orphans du Poopó or about diversity for Sport Friendly. I would like the cultural and political spheres, as well as civil society, to use my work as a starting point for reflection. 

I think emotion is at the heart of an artist’s work. It is conveyed through the photos and testimonials, encouraging new dialogue among the network’s establishments and audiences. In addition to receiving the physical book and the digital exhibition, each facility will have access to a kit to help present and promote the exhibition. For example, it can be used as a springboard to conferences attended by between 150 and 300 people every time, in my experience. Diversity is an interesting and engaging topic! 

Josefo - Sport Friendly : le terrain de la diversité !
Personne Citée
Josefo - Todo lo que Esta Bien (TEB), city of Salta
For me, pride means being able to SHOW, BE and BECOME, as in this picture. It's being able to show myself as feminine in the masculine, as masculine in the feminine and becoming feminine and/or masculine in the fluidity of my gender.

The exhibition created with the network’s contributions will be available in a digital format for presentation worldwide in July. Sport Friendly has already been presented in Argentina and Spain. How is the project usually received? 

The project received criticism and LGBTphobic comments on social media initially. There was a lot of media coverage as I launched the Sport Friendly book on the sidelines of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. This project is inseparable from the context in which it is shown. By presenting Sport Friendly on the sidelines of the World Cup, I wanted to show that there were other games being played in Argentina, “the diversity games" one might say, while a controversial World Cup for human and LGBT rights was taking place in Qatar. 

I want to see the positive side, including LGBTphobic criticism and comments. This shows that we are on the right track, that we are touching on a sensitive topic where huge progress is still to be made. 

Apart from this, the project is usually well received with significant institutional support. With the support of the Argentine Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity, which has sadly now disappeared following the election of President Javier Milei, I was fortunate enough to exhibit at the Centro Cultural Kirchner, the largest public cultural centre in Latin America. There was also an exhibition in Ushuaia, in the province of Tierra del Fuego, where we were able to offer workshops on new masculinities and diversity in sport with the support of the provincial government. This helped to raise awareness among future teachers of physical and sports education at universities. 

Sport Friendly : le terrain de la diversité !
Exposition "Sport Friendly" à l'ambassade de France en Argentine
© Emilien Buffard

Institutional support is also reflected in my collaboration with the Institut français and the French cultural network abroad. It is essential that embassies, Instituts français and Alliances françaises all over the world can host projects like Sport Friendly and thus create spaces for dialogue to address diversity. 

Sport is political. It is no longer possible to remain neutral, as certain bodies were able to do at the World Cup in Qatar or the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022. Today, remaining neutral in the face of discrimination means taking a position in reality. 


Finally, is there any other news you would like to tell us about?  

I am currently in an artistic residence in Quito, where I am developing a 100% Ecuadorian edition of Sport Friendlywith the support of the French Embassy and the national network of Alliances françaises in Bolivia! The exhibition will be presented at the Alliance française in Quito in June, before touring around the other three Alliance françaises in Ecuador and their partner cultural institutions. The Sport Friendly International edition will be available in many countries not taking part in the Olympic Games. 

Sport Friendly : le terrain de la diversité !

You are a member of the French cultural network abroad

If you would like to contribute to the international deployment of the Sport Friendly project, present the international exhibition or organise a national deployment of the project, visit this page. 

L'institut français, LAB