|Photo ©2012 Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved|
Before going to Chiang Mai for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, I researched locations and venues for muay thai (the Thai kickboxing), and the most prominent ones were unappealing for what I had in mind.
Despite its ancient history as a self-defense martial art akin to kickboxing, I had read that muay thai had gone through a rough patch. It was revived some years ago as a popular glitzy sport activity and held in large modern arenas...but it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted the bouts that had been relegated to seedy areas, surrounded by gambling and other nefarious activities. It was this side of muay thai that I had in mind.
It wasn't difficult to find what I wanted...the area known as Loi Kroh Road was the setting: a rundown gym with a decrepit ring amidst a "mall" of girlie and ladyboy bars, the boxing ring patched up with duct tape and tarted up with adverts for Jack Daniels Whisky, play-acting fights, the actual smell of sweat and the ambience of the sex for hire, ...and of course, shady nak muay, as the sport's pugilists are known.
I bought a front seat row for my first evening there, and subsequently discovered I could have a drink at one of the bars instead, walk a few steps to the ring and photograph at will. At some point, I wasn't very popular with a half-sober and rather beefy European spectator, who (rightly) claimed I was in his (and his -possibly underage- girlfriend's) line of vision, but the tense moment soon passed.
So here's The Art Of Eight Limbs, a collection of monochrome photographs made at the Loi Kroh arena, and made with the Fuji X Pro-1.
I've said it earlier, but I'm very pleased with the Fuji X Pro-1's performance, especially under the conditions I was shooting under. As one can imagine, photographing a fast-paced sports such as muay thai in dim conditions and under uneven lights is tough for any camera, but the X Pro-1 didn't let me down, except for an occasional slip with its slow focusing or because its auto-focus was fooled by the action.