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.
Over the last… ooh, quite a few… years now, I’ve been fortunate to photograph some amazing boxing action at all levels, from young amateurs to white collar first-timers to professionals. I owe my introduction into boxing photography to Paul Gough and his amazing team at Priory Park ABC in Dudley, which in turn led to my ongoing relationship with Birmingham’s fantastic white collar gym “Fighting Fit City Gym” (led by Neil Perkins).
I’ve covered many fights but also provided promotional and press images for clubs, promoters and individual fighters. I’m pleased to say that this seems to be growing nicely. However, I’ve decided to push myself and my services a little further afield. After all, even the studio images can be produced on location if necessary.
The recent “Portfolio Booster” course gave me the perfect excuse to invite brilliant local (Black Country) boxer Ryan “Tank” Aston back into the studio. Ryan is an exceptional subject for photographs, super-fit (as you’d expect a professional boxer might be) but is also a very handsome chap.
This shot shows Ryan in a more reflective pose. He’s now taking more bookings for modelling gigs (see his Purpleport profile here).
Don’t judge me but I decided to have a bit of a play with a recent studio shot of poet-by-day boxer-by-night Matt “Man” Windle by adding some smashing glass. That’s glass that is smashing, not really great glass…. You know what I mean. I kinda like it.
Here’s a shot from back in March of Black Country boxing hope Ricky Summers (on the right) doing what he does best at The Venue in Dudley. I’ve quite a few more boxing shoots in the diary – can’t wait!