Since 2004, the photographer has been capturing the unique design premise of b-ball courts, eventually having his love for the spaces showcased in a 2012 documentary titled Doin' It in the Park, where he and director Bobbito Garcia spotlighted New York's iconic local courts and retracing the history and importance of local pickup games within the communities.
Having spent years focusing on the highly niche topic, Couliau today makes a living working on assignment for major brands and media companies while also shooting for the NBA. On the topic of photographing basketball courts in all their glory, Couliau tells VICE:
"For me, Hong Kong has the most beautiful courts in the world—the architecture, the colors, and the cleanliness is second to none. It was very difficult to find this particular court—it's on the second floor of a parking garage, so you have to take a lift to get to it."
Traveling across continents regularly, Couliau makes it a point to keep his camera handy in order to snap courts found in other impromptu places. From the backstreets of Brookyln, to rural regions of Senegal, no court goes unappreciated or unnoticed.
"This is probably my favorite picture from the entire [Sphère d'influence] exhibition. After a Chicago screening of my documentary Doin' It in the Park in 2013, I walked down to the Washington Park courts.
When I got there, these kids were playing three on three, but as soon as they saw me taking pictures, they stopped and started posing. Players in New York and Chicago always seem to pose so naturally in front of a camera."
The culture surrounding basketball courts is similar to that of the barbershop or nail salon for men and women in urban communities. The function of the court is broad, more than a space to practice sportsmanship or for a workout, but used as a place for congregation, to release and express.
Because of this, many atheletes from tight-knit communities understand the importance of protecting and preserving them– similarly to Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Gorgui Dieng, who brought Kevin along to his hometowk in Kébémer, Senegal where the NBA player renovated the local courts he played on as a kid.
Aside from courts in Bir-Hakeim, Manila, all the way to Kampala, Uganda, Couliau shares images of a lone, waterfront court, the place where he filmed the opening scene of his 2012 documentary, explaining, "This court is in New Jersey, but I don't want to reveal where—I want people to find it for themselves."
During the filming of Doin' it, we searched for a really long time before we found a special place to set the first scene. We arrived at sunrise, so we could enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline.
In the photo, you can see my co-director, Bobbito Garcia, taking a jump shot as I was preparing my equipment. This photo is very special to me because I remember all the work we put in to get us to where we were that particular morning."