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Conflictus - Shooting a Muay Thai Champion | Johnny Tang Photo

Conflictus – Shooting a Muay Thai Champion

Conflictus - A sequence shot of a Muay Thai champion in black jumping up and punching another of himself in white.

Conflictus

2015

 

It’s been a tough year for me production wise, and I think much of this has probably been of my own doing. My insistence on shooting film and focusing solely on one project has stifled production and handicapped my creativity. Happily, in recent weeks, I have opened up to some new ideas and am now starting to finally make some new work. Specifically, I have been taking the skills I acquired from developing my self-portraiture, and I am applying them to making portraits of others.

I’ve always believed that the use of my likeness in the World of One pictures was a detail born more out of convenience than significance. That is to say, I could substitute anybody for myself in my World of One pictures and it would still get the same point across. While these new pictures won’t exactly be part of the World of One canon, they do share many stylistic similarities. For the time being, I’m thinking of them as side projects that will eventually make up a new body of work. Conflictus, the image I am sharing today, is the first of such images.

Conflictus is a collaboration with a close friend and fellow O.G. crewmate, Nate Delong. Nate is one of the most interesting and talented members of our already ridiculously stacked crew. Not only does this guy speak fluent Chinese, he’s also a touring DJ and Muay Thai champion. Since he’s an actual fighter, I thought he would make the perfect subject for an image that is essentially about fighting with yourself.

From a technical standpoint, this image was a great challenge for me because, in a large part, I underestimated how much background I needed. Muay Thai is a martial art that features a lot of forward movement, and, in terms of how far Nate’s flying punch would travel, I totally got my spacing wrong. Basically, I didn’t have a clean shot of the background, so I had to piece one together. I did this by overlapping the backgrounds of pictures where the subject appeared in one end of the frame to the other so that they would block out the space the subject occupied. Only then was I able to compose the placement of each figure with confidence. I basically doubled my workload for this image because I shot it poorly.

Everyone has days when they feel like beating up on themselves, and this image is inspired by such days. For me, whenever I find that life has smacked me in the face in this way, it reinforces my belief that I am my own most formidable opponent. However, I find that it is in these moments when I am struggling with my self-esteem the most, that I stumble upon the greatest opportunities for growth. At the end of the day it is through our struggles that our accomplishments become meaningful.

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Man dressed in a black T shirt with a championship belt on his shoulder, staring at himself in a white button-up with a different championship belt.

The greatest competition is with ourselves.

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