Havana Boxing Club: The Riveting Story of a Fashion Photographer Who Turned his Camera On a Ring
Thierry Le Gouès was born in Brest, France, in 1964. His photographs have adorned the pages of the world's most influential magazines, such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar or Interview to mention a few. His style is solid and essential. To many, extremely straightforward, recognizable, classic. Figuratively speaking, Le Gouès’ style may serve as a model for its immediacy and openness of contents; an ethic, more than an aesthetical, principle, that the author has made very clear through the course of his career as a photographer.
Entirely dedicated to Havana and its social scene, the book examines, in fact, the aesthetics of the Cuban capital.
The concept of ‘formal balance’ represents, in fact, the subtle fil rouge that connects all his fashion and editorial production. His first publication, Soul (powerHouse Books, 1997), clearly typifies this recurrent idea. Among its pages, in fact, a movement of whirling impulses runs rampant, traversing Le Gouès’ hypnotic fluctuations and contrasts objectified through the asymmetrical, fractured, almost catlike, figure of the human body. The harmony / disharmony of the feminine forms, almost swallowed into a white porcelain vortex, highlights, in Soul, the stylistic complexity of an author constantly torn between exaltation of a metaphysical, super-perceptible beauty and restoration of the genuinely primitive.
A hallmark of ambivalence that reveals a thirst for mundane grandeur expressed by an artist excessively attracted by those echoes of perfect imperfection that reverberate and chase each other, thus becoming audible, in volumes like Popular, published by powerHouse Books in 2000. Entirely dedicated to Havana and its social scene, the book examines, in fact, the aesthetics of the Cuban capital, with all its neat colors, contrasts and infinite, as well as fascinating, individualities. Women, mothers, children and young athletes are thus at the centre of the social macrocosm depicted by Le Gouès, who seems to linger, in Popular, on the extremely dynamic, iridescent and reactive nature of the Cuban community. And it’s exactly here, in the very heart of the city, where the author’s documentary style concretely takes its form.
Le Gouès starts assimilating everything that concerns - and surrounds - the Havana’s amateur boxing scene, with its history, its myths and traditions.
In Cuba, in fact, the artist stumbles upon the world of amateur boxing, for the first time. The memory of this encounter insinuates itself into the celebrated photographer’s mind with the intensity of a flash in the midst of a storm. And there it remains, for years. But a moderate curiosity, as it often happens, can sometimes turn into an impetuous, blistering need for knowledge. So he decides to return to Cuba to construct the bases of a photographic research he never really started. From that day – it’s 2006 - Le Gouès starts assimilating everything that concerns - and surrounds - the Havana’s amateur boxing scene, with its history, its myths and traditions. On a daily basis, the artist captures its young protagonists, drenched in sweat, courage and pride for their own country. The weight of their dreams is almost everywhere, confined in their fists, gestures and crystal tears. And Le Gouès can perceive it, so distinctly, at a distance of miles.
A similar weight is also rooted into the fertile, rocky terrain of a history – the history of Cuba – replete with significant events. One of these, for instance, radically changed the history of this sport in the country. In 1961, in fact, professional boxing was banned by the revolutionary government. From that year, the world saw exceptional talents arise from every corner of the island. They were extraordinary, pure, unequivocal stars of amateur boxing - Rolando Garbey, Enrique Regüeiferos, Emilio Correa, Teófilo Stevenson, Félix Savón, Jorge Hernández or Ángel Herrera Vera are just a few of them. The flame of their feats still shine in the eyes of Le Goués’ subjects, young fighters captured among dreams, bruises and daily challenges.
Their dedication and grace is eminently described and illustrated in a new photographic book edited by powerHouse Books. Titled Havana Boxing Club, this book gathers eight years of black-and-white photographs taken by the illustrious French photographer. Impassioned, accurate, even touching, this compelling compendium exposes the viewer's eye to these fighters’ courage, steadfast champions inebriated with life, hope and sacrifice.
"Havana Boxing Club" by Thierry Le Gouès is currently available on powerHouse Books’ website. Click HERE to purchase your copy now.
Words: Vanessa Giampietro
Photography: Thierry Le Gouès