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Take On Muay Thai XXIV Photos

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(Hey, I noticed a lot of traffic coming to this post from Facebook. If you can shoot me a message or post a comment below telling me where you got the link, I’d appreciate it. I’d like to thank whoever posted it).

Last Friday, I ventured out to the Resorts World Casino in Queens, NY to photograph the Take On Muay Thai XXIV event.

I had a really great time at the event. The venue staff was very friendly and everyone backstage with the promotion and the various fight camps were really cool. I didn’t want to shoot pure action, so I tried to incorporate behind the scenes documentary pictures as well as abstract/textural things.

And Phil Nurse of the Wat sprayed me with water. More on that later.

Let’s look at some photos!

Mike Burke warms up Macho Soto (The Institute Muay Thai in New Jersey):

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John Pina of Class One MMA getting his hands wrapped, with an apprehensive bystander: (a girlfriend perhaps?)

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Getting pumped. I really dug the Caravaggio-esque lighting on this one:

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Take On Promoter Eddie Cuello:

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The amazing Larry Legend:

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The very lovely ring card girls:

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An intrepid videographer:

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Just badass:

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A calmer entrance:

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Yorrick Anderson of Class One MMA:

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Superwoman Punch:

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More action:

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Joe Estevez checks a leg kick from Cornel Ward:

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Return Fire:

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Definitely a Rocky vibe:

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Right hand:

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In close:

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Thrill of Victory:

Robert Hansen of Five Points Academy’s memorable post-fight celebration:

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Jess Cavagnaro of Sitan Gym LI:

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The esteemed Phil Nurse, who sprayed water on me. It was pretty interesting standing just feet from one of the most esteemed striking coaches (he worked with former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre) in the world. Damn that guy is in good shape – he flew over the top ropes like a freaking superhero.

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Kings Thai Boxing – My First Experience Shooting Combat Sports

Kings_Thai_Boxing_2013_11_30_BW 24Last weekend, I got my feet wet shooting combat sports. I’ve been a huge fan of mixed martial arts since around 2006-2007, but it never really occurred to me to photograph it.

Then, I went to the Glory 12 kickboxing event on November 23 at Madison Square Garden. It was easily one of the best live sporting events I’ve ever seen, and up there with the UFC I went to in Vegas. The fights were nonstop excitement from the start of the card to the end. My friends and I were there for about 6 hours – but the fights were so exciting that the time flew by.

Something clicked with me. I really need to start shooting combat sports, so I started researching kickboxing and Muay Thai schools in New York City, to see if any would let me in to shoot their practice sessions.

On my first try, I got a yes from Kings Thai Boxing. They invited me down to shoot sparring practice on Saturday, and so I went down.

It was definitely an intimidating experience at first, but the team was very welcoming.

But the training was illuminating, and I’m not just talking about photography. I’ve never seen, let alone photographed real martial arts training up close, and the fighters displayed a really interesting combination of intensity and camaraderie.

They could go pretty hard (at least to my eyes) when sparring, but it was in the name of improving together. Fighting really is a team sport.

As far as the shooting goes, it was pretty fun but very challenging. There wasn’t much light (next time I’ll look at lighting the facility) and the action was really fast, so it wasn’t easy to keep up. It definitely took me a while to pick up the rhythms and get the nerve to get close enough to make interesting images.

But I’m definitely doing this again. In fact, I’ll be shooting the Take On Muay Thai XXIV event in Queens on December 13.

Here are some photos from the day:

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Rainy Day, New York City


It was an ugly day in New York City today but it was also kind of beautiful.

There was enough rain and fog to add some visual drama, but not enough to actually disrupt my shooting.

I’ve walked over the Brooklyn Bridge at least 25 times this year and taken at least 1,000 photographs on it, but I’ve recently started going over the Manhattan bridge as well. I’ve been riding subway trains on it for more years than I can count, but it took me until a couple weeks ago to get off my ass and actually walk it with my camera.

Typically, I use small cameras for street photography, but today I went out with a big DSLR and zoom lens (big for me at least), and it’s interesting how differently I work with this type of setup. There is much less intimacy with the people around me because I’m further away with a large setup, so I focus more on color and patterns and textures rather than my fellow man. It’s more of a joy of seeing thing.

And by the way, if you need to get to the Manhattan Bridge entrance, just go to Canal Street and head East.

So here’s what I saw from the Manhattan Bridge:

There was a big flag football game going down, with Nike sponsoring the shindig:

Hike And here’s the camera man:


A softball pitcher:




Someone’s ‘My Spot’, complete with New York Yankees logo:

MySpotA view of the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge:

BrooklynBridgeEastRiverThe Mister T — what a great name for a tugboat.


A lock, France July 2013, Brooklyn Bridge in the background:


A runner:


A beautiful playground in DUMBO:


A corpse. Yes, I am obsessed with death and decay.


And a stone structure:


That’s enough of the Manhattan Bridge photos.

A lonely orange ball:


Flowers down by the Cathedral Basilica of Saint James:


A flying pigeon party down in Brooklyn Heights:

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And finally, another rain-soaked leaf:


Photo Set – 2013 NYC Marathon

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Today, I staggered out early to shoot the 2013 ING NYC Marathon from my neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Instead of shooting it in a straight-up reportage/documentary style, I jerry rigged up a strobe lighting setup to get a more dramatic look.

People were in really great spirits and I tried to capture some of that, as well as the struggle involved in crossing the finish line.

Congratulations to everyone that gave it a shot!

P.S. If you are a publication or web site interested in using these photos, please contact me first.

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Liberty Burning

Is Having No Point of View a Point of View?

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I was once told that some of my work had a strong element of ambivalence to it.

The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines ambivalence as follows:

1: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action

2a : continual fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite)

b: uncertainty as to which approach to follow

I found that a bit eye-opening, as it seemed scarily accurate. In some ways, I’m an extraordinarily opinionated person. But that side of me seems confined to personal morals and standards of treatment.

But when it comes to bigger-picture issues, namely in politics and technology, I feel like I see nothing but shades of grey. I mean, way more than 50.

So while a lot of good art has been made in the name of political statements, I wonder where mine sits because my output is, well, sort of ambivalent.

Sometimes, I just don’t know what to think.

Is the above picture a symbol of the United States of America being beaten, battered, and burned by wars and economic disaster, but still fighting?

Or is it a metaphor for the death of liberty (think NSA scandals) and just how difficult the American dream of upward mobility has become?

I constantly find myself torn between various points of view, which makes me wonder if having no viewpoint is my point of view.

Is that valuable? Should I embrace it and run towards it?

When producing work, I tend to start with aesthetics – taking the Garry Winogrand attitude of “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed”.

Later on, I connect the dots in terms of metaphors and symbolism, which I think is a valid way of working because the subjects we choose to shoot does say something about who we are and our artistic tendencies.

One exception would be my Trayvon Martin photo where I wanted to use specific colors to reference the colors of the American flag because that whole situation truly is an American tragedy.

I described that photo as follows:

I wanted to instill a feeling of loneliness and solitude with the position of the hoodie, with the red light indicating danger coming from behind. The fact that no face is shown is intentional, a sort of play on the phrase “we are all Trayvon Martin”.

But even then, I focused on the horror of the death, not the politics.

I don’t know. I feel like everyone is opinionated these days, but the more I think about it, the more I want to run away from that, and leave opinions up to the viewer.


Photographs Lie

A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.
-Richard Avedon

Last week, I was walking with a friend along Manhattan’s west side. We had cameras with us, and a man saw us and asked us if we happened to have an extra roll of color film to sell him.

We were booth shooting digitally, so we couldn’t help him, but we ended up having a 20-minute conversation about photography, and how much things have changed since the film days.

At one point, I decided to start photographing him. The camera I was using (a vintage Sony DSC-R1 from… 2005) is absolutely dead silent and has an articulating LCD screen on top, so you can shoot looking down like a Rolleiflex or Hasselbad.

Here are the two most interesting frames:



These photos were shot just 5 seconds apart. So was our conversation a happy one or sad one? Which 1/200th of a second is the truth?

Most likely neither.

I think this is a good illustration of how deceptive a photo can be. One photo could support the idea of a joyous conversation – the other, a sad one.

For now, I’ll just say it was interesting.

Because Wearing Hoodies Is Bad For Your health

The Trayvon Martin Case – My Visual Reaction

Because Wearing Hoodies Is Bad For Your health

I can’t believe it’s been three months since I last posted an update to this blog.

Maybe that’s a good thing, as I’ve been spending a lot of time making a whole new body of still life work. It’s a huge departure from my street photography, but it’s been an enjoyable and therapeutic one.

This photo was created as a reaction to George Zimmerman being found not guilty on all counts related to the death of Trayvon Martin.

I wanted to instill a feeling of loneliness and solitude with the position of the hoodie, with the red light indicating danger coming from behind. The fact that no face is shown is intentional, a sort of play on the phrase “we are all Trayvon Martin”.

Will be posting all new portfolios soon.

Stegosaurus Still Life, and a New Direction

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Over the past month or so, I’ve fallen in love with still life photography as a means for self-expression. I haven’t shot any street photography since then, and I doubt I’m done with that genre, but I’m finding that still life’s bringing out a different side of me — the side that wants to play.

Putting together a still life photograph feels like playing to me. When I have my object and lights and knick knacks, I feel exactly the way I did when I was a 7-year old playing with Legos.

Photographs represent my work, but they’re increasingly the product of play, and that’s opening up a new area of enjoyment from me.

I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future.