I am no fan of boxing, one of the most elementally brutal spectator sports, but every once in a while it does spawn something approaching poetry: F.X. Toole's short stories, John Huston's film Fat City, and now Nicolai Howalt's series of photographs of young boxers in Denmark. Taken directly before and after the boys' bouts, the pictures reveal striking physical changes like sweat-soaked hair and smeared blood but also less obvious shifts in the fighters' facial expressions. Author AL Kennedy writes quite movingly about what she perceives in Howalt's photos:
Kennedy seems to me the perfect person to elucidate these feelings, as her novel Paradise similarly created unlikely beauty for me in the midst of something inherently ugly, in that case alcoholism instead of boxing. And even as Howalt's images hit me in the stomach, I am compelled to look, and look again. You can see a selection in the gallery here.