Working through the noise

Gina Carano is training hard. I went to Vegas last week and took production stills while Showtime put together various short pieces on Carano’s training and some footage for the feature during the broadcast. On our first day there, we met Norm, a.k.a. Satan, her strength and conditioning coach. Here is the piece from Showtime:

The comments among the differing blogs that posted this video generally revolve around Gina’s “cankles” and “double chin” or that the effort she’s putting forth only looks difficult because she never put any effort forth before. I won’t claim to know Gina at all but I have spent a decent amount of time around her as an observer and listened to her enough to know that she is indeed training hard, she always did train hard before, for the reason that people still don’t comprehend when they look at her, that she enjoys, loves fighting — it’s the only thing that makes her whole. Gina’s said that she only feels normal when she’s fighting. And I know this is true because every time I’ve photographed her fighting, I’ve noticed she smiles after being hit. Hell, I’m referring to her as Gina instead of Carano. If any of those doubters ever met Gina Carano in person, hung out with her for an afternoon and watched her train, I know they’d change their tune. Sometimes I want to respond to ill-informed comments on MMA sites but I know that few people will understand, I won’t change anyone’s mind.

After UFC 101, I’m feeling for Forrest Griffin, whom I happened to spy training while shooting Gina.  I have to say, I’m okay with him leaving, because I imagine that his soul was crushed Silva’s dominance of the former light heavyweight champ.  Yet the media are unforgiving.  True, it’s fine to poke fun, fine to be witty — but let’s not declare the end of a career off one loss to a possible superhuman fighter.  I do know that critique is necessary for the improvement of MMA, since after all, it’s still relatively knew to the masses.  But most critiques come off as complaints without reasonable solutions, criticism solely to have one’s voice heard instead of to voice something that needs to be heard.  Yes, I’m being sensitive.  I think that’s my role though.

While I’m not a journalist, and it’s probably impossible for me to be impartial because I shoot for Strikeforce, I do read all the MMA news blogs and try to keep up with the whole world of MMA. Over the last few weeks there’s been loads of bad reports, false sources, and a lot of mean-spirited opinion.  The roller coaster from effusive love for Fedor to subsequent acidic hatred, is like watching a terrible soap opera through your neighbor’s window, all the emotional drama without any points of the plot.

And it’s getting to be too much for me. I had to step back and ignore all the opinion and try to find the actual news. Strikeforce is the second promotion I’ve worked for — the first being EliteXC (in a series of roles, it’s a very long story), and working with fighters face to face really changes the way you “report” on them. This is not to say I need to brown nose, but I do need to respect their effort but most important to my job, I need their trust. I’d say having the subject’s trust is paramount to a good photograph. I’m trying to tell a story and the story won’t be honest if the subject can’t open up; thinks of me as the enemy instead of an impartial but compassionate observer.

Since I’ve had to interact with fighters as much as I have, I’ve learned to not write things on our site that I wouldn’t say to a person’s face, not to judge a fighter too harshly until I’ve met them myself. From working and observingthe operations of many promotions including Sengoku and King of the Cage, I’ve also learned to not assume because I read MMA news that somehow I know how a promotion ought to be run. I’ve learned from being yelled at for trivial matters, being micromanaged, working in chaos, that if operations go relatively smoothly in the world of fighting, that it’s doing all right.  The best thing I can contribute to a promotion is to work hard and be awesome at my job.  I learned to keep the questionable actions to myself — at least until I fully understand the situation from all sides. While being at EliteXC, I saw a lot of sumb stuff, sure. But I also knew a lot of really talented folks, working hard, trying to fight the imbalanced and chaotic system into which they were thrown.

Even working there I couldn’t tell you what happened, what ultimately led to the downfall, but I have a few educated guesses. Vivid memories aside, I won’t be writing a book until I have the facts. My only goal is to make amazing stuff — do my best, whether it be a powerful photograph or documentary, tasty cookies, or a nice little website in and around MMA. There’s a lot of signal noise out there, it’s the internet, it’s the world, it’s a ton of people converging in one messy network and there’s a lot of bad information, but there’s a lot of beautiful shit out there too. The fighters train very hard, they love to please when they can but have to first mind themselves, their health–their lives.  We’ll do our best to bring you back images from that life, in a way that honors the viewer and the subject.  We will continue to do what we do, work through the noise, make meaningful things.

2009/08/10 | Filed under MMA, Random and tagged with , , , .

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August 2009