Recently, Washington, DC-based photographer Noah Willman completed a self-assigned project on Alexandria Boxing Club. Hungry for new work, he was looking for something that would be both challenging and personally interesting. From the start, he knew he wanted to cover sports, and after doing some research, he found a few boxing gyms he was interested in shooting. Though the first gym he reached out to turned him down, it worked out for the best and led him to Alexandria Boxing Club.
The goal was to expand his portfolio, create new work for promotions, and get his foot in the door at various publications. Little did he know that this project would evolve into so much more.
Going into this project, Noah knew that Alexandria Boxing Club had some world class athletes, but he didn’t realize the full extent of it. Shortly after starting, Noah discovered that one of their 18-year old athletes was anticipated to be a medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Then, one of their coaches was hired as a USA Olympic Boxing coach. This was just a small portion of the gym’s many accomplishments.
As it turns out, Alexandria Boxing Club works with several professional boxers, world champions, and young 2020 Olympic hopefuls. But the coaches and staff don’t receive compensation, as the organization operates on a small budget.
Pre-production was very minimal for this type of project. Most of the time, Noah would show up armed with just a camera and a light, and spend the day capturing reportage-style images. He also did two portrait shoots on location using white seamless background paper. While Noah did plan out the lighting and overall look he hoped to achieve with the portraits, for the most part, he went “bare-bones” on this production.
Noah wanted to challenge himself and navigate away from client assignments that don’t allow for as much creativity and freedom. This project was exactly what he needed, and it helped him push his boundaries and further develop his skills. Every day was different, and most of the time he was hanging out and observing the action.
Breaking into a tight-knit community like this can be difficult, especially without prior knowledge or experience of the sport. But Noah was able to connect with the boxers, coaches, and staff, and they were gracious and accommodating throughout the entire project.
The reaction to Noah’s images has been amazing. The Washingtonian, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Newark Bound Magazine have licensed the images. And through pitching the story, he was able to make new connections with potential clients.
Noah’s favorite part of the project was seeing the positive impact his photos had on Alexandria Boxing Club and in particular the increased media attention they’ve received. They were thrilled with the finished product and grateful that he chose their gym for his project. Moving forward, Noah will continue to shoot photos they can use in promotions, especially for their upcoming fights.
See more of Noah at noahwillman.com!