Boxer Marcus Browne might not be as well known as, say, Floyd Mayweather Jr., but the former Olympian and currently undefeated professional is a star on the rise.
A native of Staten Island, NY, Marcus Browne prides himself on his local boxing roots. The 23-year-old light heavyweight southpaw loves to fight locally and, after seven fights at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Browne has found a home away from home.
A Brooklyn native himself, Getty Images Chief Sports Photographer Al Bello also knows a thing or two about boxing. Having started out working for Ring Magazine in 1990, Bello has covered countless title fights and has photographed the biggest names in the sport.
He has seen the best in boxing for almost 25 years and in Marcus Browne, Bello sees a talented fighter with a bright future. “Marcus works extremely hard at his craft,” says Bello. “He has the desire and the talent to do well, and at the moment his record is 12-0 with 9 KO’s.”
So when Team Marcus Browne approached Bello about doing a photo shoot, he didn’t hesitate. Coincidentally, he had been brainstorming about a new, unique idea for a portrait shoot. As a photographer who prides himself on being innovative and creative, Bello wanted to do a shoot that would take place entirely underwater. “I pitched the idea to Marcus and his team and they were totally into it,” says Bello.
To help create the ‘underwater studio’ for the shoot, Bello approached manufacturer AquaTech and they worked together to perfect the technology. “What I always wanted was a dedicated small, but reliable system to be able to place strobes in and out of the water without having to worry about the chance of them not going off,” describes Bello. “After months of preparation, we had the lighting figured out, we got the pool and we found a time that worked for Marcus and his team.”
The first part of the shoot called for Browne to be fully submerged in the deep end of the pool, throwing hooks and jabs in front of the camera. A black cloth backdrop was sunk to the bottom of the pool and Browne was positioned in front of it, just as he would be in a studio.
Working in the pool presents challenges not only for the photographer but for the subject as well. Even just a small adjustment or direction requires them to rise to the surface, discuss the issue and then completely reposition underwater, which is a feat in itself.
To make the pictures even more striking, Bello had the idea to create a bubble machine. “I took a copper pipe and capped off an end of it, drilled holes in it every few inches and then connected it to an air compressor,” says Bello. “I really didn’t have any idea if it would work or not, but after some testing, I got it. And just like that, it all came together.”
Bello then moved the backdrop over to the shallow end of the pool in order to capture some looks utilizing the water in different ways. The resulting images from this setup were equally as impactful.
Following a successful shoot in the pool, a date was set for a second shoot which would take place at the Park Hill Boxing Club, Browne’s regular gym on Staten Island. The venue provided the perfect setting to capture Browne in his element as he trains for his next fight.
Although Bello had a few ideas in his head going into the shoot, everything changed as soon as they walked into to the gym. “Once I got in the place and took a look around I knew I was in boxing gym heaven,” describes Bello. “Old posters on the walls, a very workman-like atmosphere. It reminded me of an old gym from the 1950’s.”
The shoot at Park Hill first involved a studio setup with a standard black backdrop, shot in the gym’s electrical room. After getting some different looks there, Bello moved to the main gym to get some shots of Browne training and posing in the ring.
To cap off the day, Bello recreated an iconic image that he shot of former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in 1997, this time featuring Browne with a towel draped over his head, sitting in the corner of the ring.
In the end, the project was a win-win for everybody involved. After viewing the images, both Bello and Browne were thrilled with the finished product and thankful for what was a truly rewarding experience for both fighter and photographer.
— Marcus Browne (@Marcus_Browne) September 17, 2014
— Al Bello (@albello55) September 19, 2014
Editor’s Note: Al Bello would like to thank Marcus Browne’s team that worked so hard to put the shoot together, and Getty Images colleague Bruce Bennett for providing the pool.Watch Al Bello share his career defining moments