If there are winners and losers in life, in the world of boxing these polar coordinates merge in such a way that victory equals blindness and loss is death. These pictures do not speak to absolutes of violence. They speak to the process: the will that does not allow reflection, the rigor that supports it, the style that rewards and punishes, the sweat and sacrifice that powers the machine. It is the fraternity of men in the game, the fighters, the trainers, the referees, the promoters, the ring girls, the players, and closed to all other by vows of poverty present in every imaginable form.
The lives that predate the ring are lives bereft of hope, violated, born of inequality, enduring without dignity. The ring is the catalyst. The ring releases the anger, the testosterone, heals the loss of humanity in the brotherhood. The ring binds skill to discipline, and transmutes physical work into working desire for victory.
It is also the catalyst for corruption, for pointless brutality, for blood lust, for the reek of the wounded that robs it of what dignity it offered. It is sleek physical prowess arcing into irreversible despair from a blunt blow to the head.
Only outright war could be fought in a ring with innocence. Humanity would be spared for better or worse, world leaders would be in terrific physical shape.
Larry Fink: The Boxing Photographs is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until January 1, 219.
Larry Fink’s powerful, unsentimental photographs reveal the heart of close-knit communities. Here, he takes us inside what he calls “the deep fraternity” of the boxing gym, its intimacy and its grit, captured in luminous gelatin-silver prints. Featured in the series are Philadelphia’s own Blue Horizon—one of the great American boxing arenas—and the local fighters who’ve had their dreams realized, or dashed, within its hallowed walls. The exhibition of over 75 photographs was curated by Peter Barbarie, the photographs were selected from 250 images that were promised to the museum by Anthony T. Podesta.
Larry Fink: The Boxing Photographs
On view until January 1, 2019
Julien Levy Gallery, first floor, Perelman Building
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130