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EPF 2011 Finalist

Daisuke Ito

Losolmo Gym

play this essay

“More than the development of the muscles of the body, there is the development of the muscles of the soul. It is not only task of the athletes but task of instructors, of trainers, and of all?”
– Fidel Castro, 10 July 1996

Losolmo gym is in Cuba’s second city of Santiago. The boys here train barefoot, dressed in little more than rags. The equipment is decrepit. The boxing ring floor is unevenly patched together, the ropes are frayed and there is barely enough equipment to go round and it has produced four Olympic champions. Each of these impoverished Cuban boys carries the dream of becoming a champion. I think it is not for the money, not even for the fame, but for these boys to be a boxer is the noble and heroic pinnacle of human aspiration.

There has been an exhibition “LOSOLMO GYM” in the Zen Foto Gallery, in Tokyo, 2010, and in Beijing, 2010


Daisuke Ito was born in 1976 in Japan. He had studied photojournalism for two years in 2000-2002 at IDEP in Barcelona, Spain. He had wandered around Central and South America for seven years in 2002-2009. He started his career as a photographer in 2007 in a slum named Chapeu Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His work has been published by magazines in Brazil and Japan. He moved to Tokyo in 2009.

46 thoughts on “daisuke ito – losolmo gym”

  1. Daisuke… you have some gems among your pictures.. thank you for the insight.. as someone working on a ‘gym’ related body of work this has been great on a very personal level.. thanks!

  2. Congratulations Daisuke

    What an absolute jewel of an essay. Who would have thought that such a gentle human story would come from a story about fighting. I LOVE the portraits. Even the wonderful portraits of the boys posing in fighting stance are soft and non-threatening. The technical approach here suits perfectly. It’s hard to imagine that these photographs would work as well in colour.

    What a wonderful treat this morning.

    good luck

  3. Yes, this is stunning, the gritty style and heavy grain are beautiful and perfectly match the impoverished gym. I love the portraits and there is as Eva mentioned quite a few gems I would quite happily hang on my wall or wish they were mine :).
    I hope we’ll see a book soon.

  4. You have some fine images here. And the grainy B&W works with the subject (and I’m not a fan of grainy B&W). The photos beg to illustrate a story on the guys, though, rather than stand alone. But, the EPF is a photo contest, so I can’t fault you there. Good job.

  5. Once again I find myself looking at wonderful photographs of, in some ways, an upsetting essay. I’m sure that a lot of good comes from the boys being taught boxing but seeing children as young as seven being groomed for the ring is unsettling.
    As usual, the boxers come from socially deprived communities who see boxing as a way out of poverty. I know that this is less of an issue in Cuba, where professional boxing is banned, but non the less, an element probably exists here.

    This is taking nothing away from Daisuke’s photography; which is wonderful. Congratulations Daisuke on being a finalist.


  6. What an artist! Boxing has produced many powerful photos and essays, but never have I sent another with the beauty and lyricism of this one. I love your use of “the guy.” I do hope these boys find their way into a good life. Mike R’s point rings true to me.

  7. Congratulations Daisuke on becoming an EPF finalist!

    (I absolutely love grainy B&W, so I have to be careful that I am not seduced by just the aesthetics.) This essay flat-out hit me between the eyes – excellent images that relate to the passion of these young men that I cannot articulate into words.

  8. Some stellar images and I love the aesthetic. But I can’t help but feel there’s something missing here. #19 and 23 begin to go there…. just needs a further push imo to move beyond. Best of luck and I hope you continue with these fine young men.

  9. From time to time
    The clouds give rest
    To the moon beholders.

    Elegant, ruminative, lyrical and filled not as much with the brutality of the ring as the tenderness of the heart carved from a life pitting body against spirit….and all that love in between…

    The photographs are gorgeous. I love what seem to be a mix between madder, more imperfect 35mm (Lomo?) and clearer, more agile rangefinders/slr or even a digital camera. That mix of visual form (as well as the content mix) creates the right rhythm and lyric to this story which is so much more about life than the sport itself (as it should be). I, of course, LOVE the GRAIN in many of the images, but not just because it is grain, not just because (as a photographer who lives for grain myself) it has gorgeous aesthetic texture and is incredibly tactile, but because here, this story, the grain adds to the physicality of the images, and this story is just that: sensorial….body, sweat, light, scent…we need to feel and smell and taste not only the boxing gyms but their bodies and their lifes…and Daisuke accomplishes this, with both grain and with his gorgeous use of light and shadow: Chiaroscuro :))))….

    but what i love, really love is the narrative…it opens with a PROVOKE-esque photo, tilted by grain and shadow and menace…both a frightening and powerful image (a classic boxing opener) and yet gradually, he moves us away from the aggression toward gentleness and quiet…taking us away from the brutality and toward the familial…and this great clsoing image….begin with the family of aggression and training and ending with the family at home…a great dual double portrait..2 boxes ending with boxer and lover…

    #6 is extraordinary photograph..and i’m surprised hasn’t won an award already…that is an iconic photograph and its been tough to get it out of my mind all day….

    it’s also great to think of not only Eric E’s essay on boxing (here at BURN and who was also an EPF finalist) but all the other great photographic essays the sport resounds with…..

    and all those great essays are marked by a simple thing: love

    love that unites the boxers with their boxing family and with their own family…to box their way out of the shadows of life as an attempt to light something larger from difficult surroundings…

    gorgeous photography, wise, sensitive, thoughtful work…

    here the b/w and grain is not used to mimic so much as to evoke…to use b/w as an emotional evocation of the strain and loneliness and solitary nature of the sport…but also of the rhyme that accompanys taxing your body toward something greater….

    beautiful story and beautifully told…

    big congratulations Daisuke…

    just fantastic work….:)))


  10. Daisuke,

    I really enjoyed looking at your work and your take on boxing…. Some of your shots inside the gym reminded me so much of my experience while working on a boxing essay couple of years ago… love the atmosphere of these gyms, the sweat, the tears but also the friendship I found there… still very much missing this environment… I love your last shot….



  11. I always look through the images here before reading the essay or even the photographers name… While looking at the images I assumed this must be a local photographer, somebody these local boys already know and therefor feel comfortable with. To discover the photographer is a foreigner was a surprise ….. ITO, you obviously have one of the most important qualities (to my eyes) in photojournalism; to be at one with the subject.

    Was also impressed by your visual style.. really dig to see more of your work.. Beautiful..

  12. As pictures I think these are fantastic. So so strong.
    They do however leave me with a nagging question. Probably not even one worth bothering with, and certainly not a deal breaker….but….the vignette and the unholy grain, but fine detail. HOW?
    The massive grain clusters and yet hard edged details.
    The shallow DOF and graininess of the outside shots, with bags of held detail.
    I really do love these pictures. They are very fine indeed and any concerns I have pretty much academic, but I wonder, and it bothers me, whether these were made in photoshop from a bog standard RAW file?
    And if they were should I be bothered? Not really, but I would be a little bit dismayed.
    And if not, and they are camera/film/processing/ tecnique? then bravo.


  13. These pictures are really wonderful. It’s the subject matter, that for me makes this essay stand out from the others that have been shown so far. It just goes to show you don’t have to travel to war zones and the trouble spots around the world to create great and meaningful photography.

    Hope we get more of this sort of stuff on Burn, fabulous work !

  14. JIM –

    I absolutely agree with you – thanks for posting the link to less “treated” versions of the photos. With those as a point of reference, I feel that the added grain and vignette detract from the transparency of the images. An artifact is one thing, and I happen to love artifacts whether film or digital, but I can’t say I feel the same about /artifice/.

  15. John G

    Like Jim I am not usually a fan of grainy black and white, as too often it is mis-used. In this case, it seems appropriate.
    I was also wondering about the technique. Wether film or digital based, there is much evidence of digital post-processing.
    The vignettes seem clearly digital, and there are odd banded double image things going on in some of the images. The rear out of focus figure in picture 1 for example, the profile in 5, and also present in 11 and 16. Several of the images also contain significant sharpening halos, 6 being the most obvious. The beautiful final image, while appearing simple, has had the highlights pulled way down, or a grey fill layer overlayed, then the white of the woman’s dress, and skin highlights masked out out. This is very effective and would be extremely difficult or impossible to achieve in a darkroom.

    I have no problem at all with any technique a photographer chooses as long as it works, which it does wonderfully here.

  16. I also find the grain appropriate for this essay, I actually find it loses some of its power in the other link. I was also wondering about that odd double image…
    But it all works for me to make a great essay, although I wonder how these images would look printed?

  17. there is the development of the muscles of the soul
    Chilling….. up there next to Riefenstahl’s elegiac “triumph of the will” :-(

  18. Herve, as the foremost Riefenstahl fan (though not apologist) here, I think you would do better to compare that quote to “Olympia.” “Triumph of the Will” was something else altogether.

    Regarding the fakery in processing, as most of you know, I have no problem with that whatsoever. My only fear is that if one does it to well then some programmer will write an app to mimic that style. No, what I don’t get is why so many use these oh so modern tools to mimic oh so historic looks. Other possibilities exist. Of that I am sure.

    Regarding this essay, I too am impressed with the beauty of the photos. My criticism is that I don’t see them as particularly original and that I don’t think they stand on their own as visual storytelling. Seems to me they need a written story to illustrate, otherwise most of them could be from a high end ad shoot. And I’ve seen other, similar, boxing photographs, several of which were taken in Cuba. So I’m not getting anything particular about boxing in Cuba or transcendent about boxing in general. Beautiful photos, yes. But what do they tell us about anything? Anything beyond the widely held perception that athletes’ bodies are beautiful? And Leni nailed that one in ’38.

  19. Oh no!!”digital processing” ………. yep a bunch if film guys who live their life in the fear of soiling their underpants

  20. Imants,

    I’m a digital guy, and I’m not against digital processing. I was just surprised that the grain, etc., was not achieved naturally in the shot, but instead added at the back end. I think it looks pretty good (maybe a little over sharpened in a couple), but I think that this look would have been better if it were achieved in film.

    There is also a bit of misleading in these. Photojournalism-style story edited to look like it was shot on film. Not the end of the world, just deflates my opinion of this set a little. Still like it though.

  21. Imants: exactly!…

    as a film guy who also boils his films (which y’all will see soon enough) to a beach of total and annihilating grain, i just want to remind folks (gently, not preacherly ;)) that whether it’s film from trix or film from photoshop, it does NOT MATTER…it’s all manipulation…i use trix because i want that grain, and grain doesn’t mean ‘authenticity’ it means (for me) texture, physicality, imperfection, oblivion, ache, memory, chronic, waves, dust, ash, etc….same with the vignetting (i get that with lomo, holga and diana) but it’s ok if you add that…all pictures are manipulated (in camera, in situ (with light/shadow/settings), in darkroom, in photoshop), who cares…the question is a simple one:

    what is the aim….

    i like mad-broken images and i like crisp images, film or digital, whatever…

    it’s the picture/story that matters…technique serves that…and whatever a photographer can do to get that technique, i don’t care….

    photography is not truth, photography is story telling….sometimes about events sometimes about emotion sometimes about dreams, sometimes about nothing….

    it’s all cool…

    I don’t loose one drop of admiration or respect or enjoyment for this work because the grain was created or the pics were ‘shopped….that’s what darkrooms did…that’s what camera’s do….

    i like soiled things, thank goodness :))))

    keep on rockin’, everyone!


  22. it’s the picture/story that matters…technique serves that…

    Yup. Well said, Bob. Who says you can’t do concise?

  23. Pep Bonet’s latest work is all shot digital and processed to make it look as close to T-max 3200. Last Monday whilst walking round his latest exhibition I just really couldn’t tell looking at the prints which was T-max and digital, I only knew because he mentioned it at a group talk I attended.

  24. Before I went digital in 2002, I shot black and white almost exclusively – Tri-X and the T-Max’s – a lot of 3200, often pushed t0 6400. My original intent when I switched was to remain a black and white shooter and just convert all my digital to black and white. But I quickly realized it was much more time consuming to convert digital to good black and white than to keep it color. Then I decided that color was not so bad and even had its advantages and so I have shot and processed color more than 99 percent of the time since.

    Still, sometimes I pull up scans from my old negs and kind of long for that.

    I was in awe when I first saw this and I also did wonder a few of the same things that John Gladdy did. At first, I was a little disappointed when Powers posted the link to the images before the grain was added to them, but then I asked myself why? Especially since that was essentially my original goal.

    If that is the look one wants and intends to end up with, does it really matter if it is shot smooth and the grain added later? The end result has the intended look and punch that the photographer was trying to achieve.

    Still… somehow… something feels lost… yet it would not feel lost had I not followed the link Jim Powers posted… this must be indicative of some kind of artifact within the human mind.

  25. Frostfrog

    My experience sort of mirrors yours. My personal work prior to going digital was mostly black and white, although curiously I usually printed my black and whites on colour paper just because it was easier to just pop it through our paper processor than set up developing trays.
    Shooting 100% digital now, and liking colour, but I have been trying with limited success to come up with good black and white conversion options. Today I downloaded a trial of Silver Efex Pro 11 and played with it awhile. Very impressive.

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