Chris Crisman’s Philadelphia Stories: Front Street Gym


Chris Crisman realized early on in his career that he was drawn to photographing subjects in their own environment showcasing every day people as larger than life.  He aims to create something cinematic and epic that captures a moment in time where if you had blinked you would have missed it.

What was it that inspired you explore this story?
I love Philadelphia. Work takes me on the road quite a bit, so doing personal projects that could be shot close to home are something I’m always looking out for.

Philly has a legendary past when it comes to boxing. There’s bare knuckle fighting from the 19th Century, famous Jack
Dempsey fights, Joe Frazier and his training gym, Bernard Hopkins, Sonny Liston, Larry Holmes, and that one movie franchise that needs not be named. I was seeking out a boxing gym in Philly and our location scout really brought the goods by delivering us The Famous Front Street Gym.

What was your vision for this shoot? I wanted to shoot boxers on the cusp of adolescence and adulthood.
Boxing is visceral and seeing these young men makes you question so much about them and yourself the viewer.
I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible in both process and execution. We wanted to elevate the space, but let the young boxers be themselves as much as possible. The gym has a magical patina that can’t let you down, but I am very pleased with how we captured a ghostly history that still somehow feels nurturing when framed around the boxers.

Once you started shooting did that change?
Not much. We wanted to utilize the sunrise coating the space as much as possible, and we all know that window closes fast. We were very deliberate throughout and made sure to stick to our script for the first half of the day. Once we felt like we had covered all of our big wishes, we started to focus more with our locked down strictures shots like those in the bleacher seating.

Did your team have to do anything unique or different on this shoot that stands out to you as something that made this shoot extraordinary?
We always have great energy as a team, but things can get particularly exhilarating when you add a magical space and place. I already mentioned that the I was striving for authenticity, however, capturing how that is versus how that Feels is a very different application. We did accent the space with a certain mix of textural haze varied that effect as we worked through each shot.

What do you love about these images?
Many things, but if I had to pick one , I love how proud the boxers and their families are about how we captured them in the space where they exist at their best.

Any memorable moments on the shoot?
All of them. The photo/video balance was particularly in sync on this day. The space was so inspiring and the magic of it all was particularly infectious. We all worked so hard and awarded ourselves with 40’s of our behind the bullet proof glass favorites. That felt particularly appropriate for the day.

Is there anything surprising about the images you would like people to know?
We end up using post production to solve problems and at times add value and content for supporting the overall deliverables on a job. That said, what We create and capture in camera is often overlooked by people that haven’t worked with us. These images have very little to almost no retouching and I hope people agree that we’re not missing anything.

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