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29.10.2014

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“The Cubans are really proud of their exceptional boxing tradition. In Havana you can come across small, improvised boxing centres every couple of streets, where experienced boxers pass on their knowledge to the next generation – mostly voluntarily.

A good friend of mine is José Gomez Mustelier, Cuban Olympic Boxing Champion in 1980. With his support I got permission to take pictures in the catacombs of the famous Kid Chocolate Hall. The boxing stadium in the capital of Havana is named after the first Cuban Boxing World Champion and, in addition to a training centre for ambitious youngsters, it also hosts weekly boxing matches.

The atmosphere in the catacombs was impressive – an exceptional experience to see these incredibly trained and lightening-fast athletes directly in front of you. Despite the supposed aggressiveness of the sport, the boxers were peaceful, relaxed and friendly to me. It was only when they had to get into the ring a few minutes later that they'd withdraw to fully prepare themselves mentally for the coming fight.  

As always, I photographed with my 35mm there at the boxing club; that way I could at times get really close to the sportsmen – more than once, fists flewn by within a centimetre of my camera and my head.”

Johannes Barthelmes

Born in Speyer, Germany, in 1953, Barthelmes studied at the Music and Performing Arts School in Graz, Austria, where saxophone was his main subject. In 1989 he won the SWF Jazz Prize, and in 1994 and 1998 the German Record Critics Award. Since 1998 Barthelmes is dedicated solely to photography – his pictures have been exhibited all over the world. The thematic focus of his work is Cuba and life on the socialist Caribbean island.

www.johannes-barthelmes.net
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