As the sun dragged itself from under the horizon we arrived at Front Street Gym. The gym sits above a north Philadelphia beer store. Its graffiti-covered metal entry is flanked by two signs distinguishing it from the other storefronts on the block. Once the heavy door swung open, the sunshine poured over the worn down steps created by the athletes climb to becoming the next champion. Whitewashed brick walls were layered with 50 years of boxing posters that tell its history throughout the years. The posters serve as inspiration for the younger generation to push a little longer and hit a little harder with the goal to one day join their ranks.
Boxing is a sport that is associated with violence and brutality but what is often overlooked is the beauty that is displayed in the ring. An athlete who dedicates their time and energy to the ancient combative sport learns to dance about their opponent, dodging thrown punches while countering with their own. The bouncy steps around the ring look more like a ragtime one-step than a battle. The precision of a one-two punch displays all of the hard work and dedication did before. This shoot was very much like a boxers creative collaboration of limbs. We wanted an experience that would start with a photograph and finish with video to add more depth to the visually engaging story.
Ezra Migel and Chris have worked together on still-video productions before. So when Chris decided to produce Front Street Gym he immediately contacted Ezra. The two had already developed a rhythm that had worked well. They have proven that together they can make great work and that always begins with a thoughtful plan. After sharing many videos and pictures to nail down the vision, they banged out a rough shot list that would guide them throughout the production.
What is truly special about Chris’ creative process is his ability to make the environment its own character. In this case, the Front Street Gym had a personality that was larger than life. The priceless charm of the boxing gym existed effortlessly and would be priceless in an attempt to recreate. Once the athletes step into that space they are transported to a place where there is hope of a better life and honor to be earned. We could not predict how inspired the space would make us feel.
With each shot, Chris began with composing a dynamic scene. While shooting stills, Chris bounced back over to the director role. With Ezra shooting video, he and Chris collaborate in capturing a more evolved version of the initial still shot. This workflow allowed them to knock out their shot list that ended up growing due to the complex dynamic and overall energy from our entire team. Needless to say, we were united and in perfect sync with each other. Working effortlessly together to achieve our goals. I don’t believe we could have been happier with the day. We were allowed to work with amazingly talented people in a magical space where we were able to create something special. I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as we did in making it.
It was another productive week in Philly, spent prepping and working on a handful of upcoming projects. As you can see from the shot above, we even managed to squeeze in some time to work on another personal portrait shoot.
It’s really valuable to have the time and opportunity to make personal work. To anyone who’s shooting out there, make sure you’re shooting for yourself as often as you can. It’s an incredibly valuable experience to make your own photos exactly how you image them, and I’d even hazard a guess that Chris might go crazy if we didn’t get a chance to shoot personal work every now and then.
We were told we had five minutes – if we were lucky. We were also told that Jagr didn’t like getting his photo taken. “He, uhh doesn’t really like photo shoots” remarked our Flyers contact with a look mixed with concern and worry. Limited time window, possibly unruly, 6’3” 240lb subject with metal blades on his feet, nothing to worry about. Keep reading to see how it all turned out when we shot Triple Gold Club winner, soon to be Hall of Fame hockey player, Jaormir Jagr…
It’s been a good week back in and around the Philly area. A week of classic cars, indie rock, and large format printing – not bad. Chris and I have managed avoid airplanes this week, keeping our shoots local around the NYC and Philly area. This week was also a bit more low-key and gave us the chance to get caught up back at the studio. Keep reading to see what else happened this weekâ€¦
We’re a week late but I just wanted to share some photos from the Crisman Memorial Day BBQ.
First things first, a big thank you to Chris and his wife Julie for hosting a great party. Also, many thanks to the talented Jillian Guyette for taking a few shots of everyone enjoying themselves (on film nonetheless – hence the vintage vibe… and why this post is a week late. Film still has to get processed and scanned, remember?).
I hope everyone else had an awesome Memorial Day weekend – check out a few more shots from the party below.
It’s an understatement that everyone here in Philadelphia is happy to have Cliff Lee back with the Phillies. We’re only a few weeks into the season and already things look very promising. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with him during spring training. He is the definition of cool.
Make sure to check out below for a short behind the scenes clip of us shooting Cliff down in Clearwater earlier this year.
The April edition of Philadelphia Magazine hit stands recently including a plethora of photos I shot in Florida of the Philadelphia Phillies. The project included shooting four Collector’s Edition covers and a ten-page photo essay of the team. (Click here to read the article.)