📍Lyari, Sindh, Pakistan
When I was given the list by WOW Foundation of women to photograph for International Women’s Day as part of their 2021 Hope Brigade, I was excited to see that one of these spots rather than belonging to an individual was actually the entire Lyari Girls Boxing Club.
Over the last few years, this club has gotten an incredible amount of media coverage by many local & international publications and the girls have been photographed a LOT. Nearly all their pictures show them in typical boxing poses. I knew I had to do something different.
When I got to the location, I had a long talk with their coach about his tireless efforts towards keeping this club alive. He told me about their determination and dreams – how these girls wished to compete in championships and often came to train in spite of the challenges they faced at home.
Listening to these numerous stories, I decided that it was their resolve and commitment I needed to capture- not so much the act of boxing. Images of intense expressions and Vogue-like covers flashed through my mind. I had to manage that kind of dynamic mood in the existing environment; a dingy warehouse type room with barely any natural light. I told the girls they should warm up and then have a couple of friendly matches to get in the right frame of mind. About an hour later, I felt they were in the zone. Everyone was hot and sticky but completely energized.
I gathered them on a tiny wooden bench close to the one source of natural light and told them what I had in mind. The girl with the red bandana, who seemed to be the group leader, moved naturally in the center while the others adjusted themselves around her. I shifted their gloves in the gaps to make the shot super tight. With their faces in place and just the right amount of sweat trickling down their foreheads - the scene was set. The challenge, however, remained their expressions. They weren’t getting the right look in their eyes.
Then I got an idea.
“Look down,” I said.
“When you look up, imagine the face of your opponent in the final round of a match.”
And that’s how this portrait came to be.
~ Khaula Jamil
Additional information about the Club:
"Founded in 1992, the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club has since produced a bevy of boxers, some of whom have made it on to the international boxing scene. In 2012, the club got a new building, courtesy of the Government of Sindh. The new building enabled coach Qambrani to pursue another dream that he had had – to coach girls in the typically male-dominated art of pugilism. Surprisingly, quite a few girls from his neighborhood showed an interest in training, including girls from his own family. Since then, there has been a regular ebb and flow of girls wanting to participate, with a few who have been training regularly for the past five-six years. They have also been competing at the district and provincial levels, winning several laurels in the process."