A photo documentary book about the New York Friday Night Fights.
Book Introduction Below:
Anyone can win.
When I started photographing the Friday Night Fights NYC, I assumed they would be in a dark room filled with musky fumes of sweat, two hulking men consumed with blood lust and rage trying to beat the life out of each other while the watching mob violently roared for more. I didn't know what boxing was; I didn't know who boxers were; I just didn't know.
We both came with assumptions, me of the boxers, the boxers of me, both of us on the defense dodging judgment. I was the outsider - some woman in a dress and "casual work" shoes roaming around the pre-fight weigh-in, saying to men in their underwear, "Excuse me, sir, can I take your photo?" Here they were gearing up for the most exhausting expenditure of physical and mental strength, and there I was interfering with their moment. It was as if I showed up just before the Wimbeldon final with a ping pong paddle offering to be Roger Federer's warm-up buddy.
Bottom line -- it was clear I knew nothing.
Those men taught me that first fight I was a guest at their table; and if I was lucky, another invitation to dine would be graciously extended. I was lucky, and followed up a lot. Over the next two years I was invited into their gym, their lives, their victories, and their losses. I became someone who loved, supported, and began to understand the meaning of "the fight." What those men gave me was a part of their lives; all I could offer in return were trinkets of momentary recognition -- a photo of themselves, or maybe a small editorial in a magazine. I could give them 7 minutes of their 15 minutes of fame, but what they really wanted was more complicated.
What I learned, in the end, is that a boxer and his team have the endurance and fortitude that comes only with unshakable faith in self. In their minds there is no question where the six hours of daily training, the unpaid amateur bouts, the makeshift shared dressing rooms, will lead. There will be a title fight in Vegas, they will walk the streets of their neighborhood as heroes, as their heroes did before them. They don’t speak of loss or prepare for the shock of a setback. Why would they? Then they would have to admit the possibility exists that what they are doing might result merely in defeat.
Ironically, what I learned watching these men come and go is it is the loss that defines who they are. They can chase the win as hard as they want, but if they run at the first sign of loss they might as well just give up. In loss lies the last few bits of character needed to win - humility, sacrifice, and the beauty it takes to stand back up and hug the man who beat you, because he earned it -- this time. That is faith, that is love, and that is boxing.
Anyone can win.
Alison Grippo launched her photography career as a Spring 2006 Hot Shot. She was named a Ne Plus Ultra and is represented by Jen Bekman Gallery. Alison has also won PDN and Olympus' Visionage competition, has been an honorable mention multiple times in the LUCIE International Photographer of the Year Awards, and was "Chosen" by the American Photography 2007 Annual. She was a finalist for Critical Mass, sponsored by Photolucida.org and The Center Of Fine Art Photography, for her Friday Night Fights series. Work from this series has also been published in Cool'eh, File, Flak Photo, and Story. Her other work has been featured in JPG, Digital Photographer, Surface, Hotshoe International, Readymade, and various additional publications.