I’ve photographed all (I think) of Henrietta Street Gym‘s (and Fighting Fit City Gym before that) white collar boxing shows, the most recent being the “Dawn of a Pugilist” show at Pryzm nightclub on Broad Street, Birmingham a few weeks ago.
These are always excellent shows with well-matched bouts, great crowd, and the safety of the competitors given maximum priority. For the client, I supply the images in vibrant full colour – and the excellent lighting means bright blues and reds of the opposing teams. However, for once I thought I’d do a few black and white edits for my own amusement…
Sam Gwilt displaces his opponent’s gum-shield.
From a photographer’s point of view, the lighting in boxing venues is seldom ideal. and Baggeridge Sports & Social Club is less ideal than most with the only lighting available coming from the room’s fluorescent ceiling lights. In fact, when editing images from the many boxing shows I’ve photographed there, I’ve noticed that usually the audience are better lit than the fighters in the ring! However, what it lacks in suitability for sports photography, it makes up for in atmosphere as Priory Park ABC‘s boxing shows here are ALWAYS full to capacity.
This month’s “open” show was no exception and showcased the club’s new talent as well as some of the more experienced boxers. Wherever Priory Park’s shows are, the standard of boxing is exceptional and Paul Gough has assembled a great team of trainers, referees, MC’s, etc that I feel I am now a part of.
A Priory Park boxer is lifted off his feet.
This shot shows how the audience are actually better lit than the boxers.
I first spoke to Matt Windle, the Boxer-Poet on (fellow poet) Emma Purshouse‘s recommendation when I was hoping he’d come to provide a poem for the launch of my “Pride of the Black Country” exhibition a few years ago. That never came to pass but our paths have crossed many times since, both in his capacity as poet (he’s currently Birmingham’s Poet Laureate) and as boxer (I’ve supplied many of his promotional images as well as documenting his professional fights).
I was very flattered when Matt chose to include me in “Poetry with Punch“, a brilliant initiative that involves providing creative workshops in schools including a combination of poetry, music, boxing/boxercise, dance, and photography. It mightn’t come as a surprise to you that I supplied the photography bit.
We’ve done a few of these so far and the kids who’ve taken part have clearly loved it. Matt’s team of poets, musicians, and choreographers do a wonderful job of engaging the kids and stimulating their interest in so many areas in such a short space of time. I was fortunate to have watched (and photographed) as the other specialists led their various sections of the course.
One look at me is enough to realise that I’m not a person who voluntarily spends much time in the gym. However, when a regular client (Fighting Fit City Gym) re-brands as Henrietta Street Gym and moves to a specially-designed new premises and needs photos, I’m there.
Owner Neil Perkins had been keeping me up to date with the re-fit of this former industrial building in Brum’s Jewellery Quarter but I was still hugely impressed when I finally set foot in the gym a week or so after it’s launch. Neil and his architects have cut no corners and have managed to retain the building’s “heritage” feel while making it an inspiring and comfortably modern place to train.
Retaining and re-using some of the building’s character features (like old machinery, exposed brickwork and parts from the goods lift) and augmenting those with well-sourced suitably period furniture (like old theatre/cinema seating and historic pugilist artwork) gives the gym the feeling of a film set.
Even the changing rooms and showers have been carefully planned and laid out with exposed pipework, reclaimed ceramic sinks but state-of-the-art shower fittings.
Even I, whose motto is “no pain…” (that’s it, just “no pain”) can feel a little inspired in a gym like this. Neil and his team have created what must be the most stylish boxing gym in the Midlands (at least!).
As a sort of sideline to the action shots of the boxing events arranged by Priory Park Boxing Club in Dudley (the “Pride of the Black Country” as they have been called), I have continued to add to my ongoing documentary project of the same name.
The above shot shows a young boxer (just 9 years old) emerging from the ring after a non-competitive bout at a recent “Development show” to a huge hug from his very proud father, still clutching onto his trophy. This image will eventually be converted to black and white.
To me, this image encapsulates some of the excitement and euphoria that is so apparent at all of the many shows I’ve shot.