The Dirtchamber Sessions

AKA. How I changed my views on wrestling portraiture

Chris Brookes at Fight Club: Pro 2016

In The Beginning

I’ll come back to why I’ve called this post “The Dirtchamber Sessions” at the end, for now let’s go back to the beginning. At first, my wrestling portraiture was geared towards “the poster”, so all sessions had a white backdrop, a large square key and maybe one or two vertical kicker lights. Nothing artistically fantastic about them but that was what most people wanted, the formal backdrop that’s easy to cut out for graphic design work(even though the pen tool doesn’t require any sort of backdrop fellas, you know who you are). It really wasn’t long before I started throwing up my black cloth instead of white paper and shooting with one large softbox, which is what I wanted to do all along. Being creative and having fun shooting with awesome people.

The spotlight may have been flung well and truly on the British wrestling scene by the WWE UK Championship tournament earlier this month, but there were already many sidelights shining. The British independents have been knocking the ball well and truly out of the park for a long time now, constantly smashing goals and filling out bigger and bigger venues. Wrestling photography has also dramatically increased, with lots more shooters with their own creative “voice” in their images or moving to more advanced lighting setups. This upsurge of quality made me take a more critical look at my own portraiture (aided also by a lot of my images being used without permission I might add) and switching how I present shots online. I wouldn’t say that I now aim towards the high art style, just more stylised to avoid theft and with much more retouching to keep my initial goal of making British wrestling look great firmly at the forefront.

Zack Gibson at IPW:UK 2016

Watermarks, for me, are horrible. I have always resisted the urge to watermark my images mainly because they are often distracting and personally, I just hate them, but there’s a point where the camels back breaks. With promotions and wrestlers themselves profiting from my significant investment in lighting, softboxes and of course time studying techniques, setting up at shows, editing and travelling I said “enough was enough” and pulled all of my portraiture albums from the Turning Face Facebook page and begin uploading watermarked, stylised shots to Instagram instead.

So why “the Dirtchamber Sessions”? Well, that’s mainly down to a very young me being obsessed with The Prodigy from first hearing Music for the Jilted Generation in ’96(ish) and in ’99 Liam Howlett released The Dirtchamber Sessions as an official response to his mix session on Mary Anne Hobbs’ Breezeblock show being bootlegged. The album was widely reviewed as dark, raw and furious, with the track sequencing being inspiring. With these re-edits of my portraiture, I’m drawing on that darkness, rawness and hopefully, inspiring the wrestling photography community to not just sit by and let their work get stolen and others profit from their creativity and hard work.