Ever since I photographed basketball in Rwanda, I have been fascinated and almost obsessed with ways sport and fitness can improve culture and society. In particular, my fascination has revolved around impoverished regions. Last June, in Rwanda, where genocide, poverty, and disease devastated the small country and, a few months ago, in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester.
The streets of Dorchester account for a huge amount of the violence in Boston where only 1% of young people account for 70% of the violence in the city. Surprisingly, the city I have lived in for 3 years and where I have called home for my entire life, averages 1 shooting every 1.1 days and has a violent crime rate 123.8% higher than the national average. (Stats from http://www.innercityweightlifting.org/#!about1/c91a) These stats, which I had no knowledge of before this photo series, baffled me. So when I got a call from a long time client of mine, ReebokONE, to photograph a series for them about a fitness instructor training program, InnerCity Weightlifting, that has proven to decrease violence and arrest rates in their members, I jumped all over the opportunity. The result is one of my favorite photo series to date.
I would write more about the violent and hostile lives many of these trainers in the photographs have dealt with and overcome through fitness training but there are amazing videos releasing in the future that will touch upon this much better than my words. All I can tell you is how intimidating it was to ask the men in the photos, many of whom have been shot or shot others, to stand 6 inches away from my lens while I snap off a portrait. The intimidation was a product of my ignorance that quickly dissipated. In the end, just like every shoot I have been involved with, the subjects are human just like me and once again showed nothing but respect and kindness towards me and the art of photography. They are all a true inspiration that I will always carry with me.
In the mean time, enjoy the photos and let me know what you think. Do you know any stories of how fitness and sport has changed someone you know for the positive?