Rummaging through my old bookmarks folders, I re-discovered a long-forgotten gem. This series of photographs, taken by the young and unfairly gifted Stanley Kubrick, shows the famed American boxer Rocky Graziano in his most unguarded moments. The effect of Graziano’s god-like physique combined with the access, immediacy and intimacy of Kubricks’s photography is, simply said, stunning.
Graziano was, back in the day, considered one of the greatest knockout artists in history for his capacity to strike down his opponent with a single blow. This decisiveness and precision in his art is greatly mirrored in Kubrick’s photography. Reflecting on how difficult it must have been to master the medium at the time - think technical, physical and lighting constraints of early film - and still be able to precisely and decisively capture this feeling of proximity and familiarity, almost voyeurism, brings about an odd union of awe and an acute awareness of lack of one’s own skills in spite of all the technological advancement and ease of use of our equipment today.
And moreover, photography is ultimately not only about the tech skill, the mastery of camera and light, but inevitably about the photographer and his personality too. Thinking about the trust that Kubrick had to establish to create these astoundingly intimate, unguarded shots, doesn't tell us something valuable solely about the subject, but also gives us rare insights on the photographer himself. Imagine the kind of personality that Kubrick carried around to be able to disarm his subject, put at ease the tension and, most importantly, dissolve the wall that goes up any time there is a camera pointing at you.
For more photographs of Graziano and other boxers from the 1940s by Stanley Kubrick, head here. For a must see Day of the Fight (1951), a Kubrick’s short documentary about the boxer Walter Cartier complete with contemporary American cityscape, see this. For the photo shoot that inspired the documentary, Prizefighter in Look magazine (1949), check this out.