Mike, everybody, this is Mike. Now Mike, you're an athlete. (chuckles) He nods at me. I can see you're very well built. Now you do kickboxing?
Yeah, martial arts.
Martial arts. Normally I do a lot of research on whoever I'm shooting, find out as much about them as you can. You see where their happy place is, so that one of the things that you wanna bring out of someone like Mike too is potentially that aspect of what he can do, right. The fact that he can kick and punch, but the chances are too is that you've seen a lot of that. He probably photographed that way many, many times. One of the things I found really great about when I was shooting the Raw series is I made sort of dancers stand really still and I made people who, or asked people who didn't dance to dance. And to move, and it was very interesting to see when they're not in their happy space sometimes, how that created a tension. Now, what I'm going to ask you to do, you're someone who's fought people. I'm assuming you've...
won fights and lost fights, correct? Now, I shoot a lot of athletes too and oftentimes athletes are on set with me and they feel quite awkward, 'cause it's not their happy place, they're not in the court, they're not in the ring, they're not on the mat, not in the field. They're in a studio and they feel out of place. So I ask them, I imagine right now, you've been through all these fights, when did you first start fighting?
2010. No, 2008.
2008, so 10 years, you've got a decade of fighting. Take yourself back to the very first time when you first decided to start fighting. Think about all the ways, how many times you trained, all the different ways of fighting, all the lessons you went through, all the classes, all the sore muscles, all the bruises, all the cuts, all the anguish, the joy of winning, how it's all led to certain moments in your career and your life and how you feel as a man right now if you stand in front of me. And I want you to look in this direction and just channel those moments right now. How do you feel when you think about your career?
I feel complete, I feel like, I put in the time, and I've won, I've lost, I learned from everything. (camera shutter clicking) (mumbles)
Now, thank you for sharing that. Those sorts of questions are taking him back, and asking him to sort of relive those moments. Everyone reacts differently, right, but you see with people oftentimes, they're standing there a little bit nervous, and all of a sudden we're talking about his career, where he's been and this is his life and his world, and that's what's important. And you see all of a sudden this introspective Mike comes out and he's thinking about where he's been and yeah, I feel strong and you've won things, you've lost things but it's made you the man you are today. And it's amazing how an athlete too, I'll often say, if they're Olympic athlete and they've won the Olympic medal, remind them of that moment. Remember when you were on the podium and you won Olympic gold, and you were standing there and your national anthem is playing, the flag of your country is rising, the whole audience, the world is watching. Probably that your mother, if she's not there, is at home watching and crying. It's all led to this moment, and here's that picture. And you'll see someone go... And boom, there's that picture I wanted of the winner, of the champion. But I'm helping to get them into that moment versus them being in here and saying, oh yeah, you fight, you do this, you do that, and it's just not real. So you've gotta help them get into those moments. Mike, you can kick?
Give me a kick.
Straight at you or sideways?
Surprise me. What you got? And again. And again. Can you drop and give me 20? Please? (chuckles)
Are you? You call those push ups? (camera shutter clicking) Now... What I just did then, I don't mean to be cruel.
But I do that a lot to people. And actually someone did it to me when I was a young model and I think I was doing some underwear modeling at the time, believe it or not. A few years ago. But it was not just to get your body tight and looking toned, but it was actually to get that expression in your eyes. It's very hard for me to say to you, give me that passion, give me that fighter instinct, if you're just standing there. But as soon as he drops and does that, the whole body goes into action. He kicks, it reminds his body, his body remembers what he's done, what he's trained to do, and the fighter comes back in him. And so you can create that atmosphere again, but you have to be quick, you've gotta be there ready 'cause as soon as he stops, he's gonna remember, the body's gonna be like oh I'm back in the studio. It's like a dancer too, once they do that dance moment, they're in their moment. You've gotta capture that and even if you don't want them dancing, as soon as they stop, you've gotta be there to capture that moment. Now, you'll see in one of my other classes too, I have another fighter who you know, Ivan, who I photograph and I did something with him which I never recommend to do to people, but I'm gonna do it again right now with you. Do you know what it is? Did he warn you?
No, he didn't. (chuckles)
So, you see how fast he reacted too? This is the problem when you photograph trained fighters. But, so what I did just then, and I don't recommend doing it always but I do recommend doing it. I have got some of my best shots photographing fighters, and I photograph a lot of boxers and heavyweight boxers and what have you in my time, and one specifically who, great guy, heavyweight boxer, won a championship, I was photographing him for some press pictures, and as so many of these guys are, because they're built so well, they're so strong and they've won so many things, they're actually very gentle. They're actually very soft, and they don't feel threatened, because they're not threatened by much, and so they come on set and they're actually big teddy bears. And they stand there and of course, you're trying to shoot the fighter. The brief is, I wanna shoot the heavyweight champion of the world kinda thing. And you're looking at him going, the heavyweight teddy bear of the world is not really the thing, right? Necessarily, maybe it is for one of the shots. Maybe in the story. There has never been a better way of getting someone, a fighter to react than going just the (mumbles). And I almost got knocked out by one. But the picture was unbelievable. So it was pushing the limit, pushing the boundaries, because the fire came out in the eyes and all those sorts of things, so that is a big part of it. Can I have that water again? And you wanna take your t-shirt off, are you okay doing that? Sure.
Not in fight shape anymore.
Oh the mic, that's okay, you can take it off, right? Can we quickly take his mic off? (chuckling) (mumbles) No more talking mate, just reacting. You got it, Tobes? Thank you. All righty, step forward a little bit for me. Now, what I'll actually have do, Toby would you come in and I want you to pour this on Mike's head. As you look at me, go. From high up, not from the front, not from the front, from the side. (camera shutter clicking) Feel cold? That's good, that's enough. That's enough. (exhales deeply) How does that feel? (mumbles) So this is creating a reaction. I can ask him to think about a reaction, we can give him a towel I think as well, thank you very much. A round of applause for Mike right there. (audience clapping) You can create a reaction. You can ask someone to think about something, but that is one of the most visceral things you can do. By the water hitting his skin, you can see how he reacted, it was (breathes sharply), and the eyes light up. It's similar to when you feel something cold, feel something hot in your hands, feeling ice, and I did this when I first started testing, this is one of the things I used to do, and I would photograph these models and oftentimes it would be in nice, warm weather, and it's kinda hot, so you kinda get a little slow in the things that you're doing 'cause it's warm, beautiful weather. Get an ice cold drink, ice cold. This was just a room temperature drinking water, mine by the way. Get an ice cold drink and pour it on them. Or ask them to pour it on themself. And the reaction of (gasps) as it takes your breath away, it's like stepping into ice cold water, and the eyes come alive. The eyes are the window to your soul, your personality, who you are, how you react, and having those eyes light up, those are the pictures that these models were wanting. Over and over again they would come and see me and they would say, "I wanna do that photograph like this," and I'm like, "Okay, but you know how we got there?" If you're willing, let's do this. We're gonna take it there. We're gonna push the envelope. We're gonna make this happen. So yeah, and you can see, there are these sort of great moments of huge reaction.