Piero Pompili’s stunning photographs of Italian boxers

Gladiatori Moderni by Piero Pompili is a collection of black and white images of modern gladiators.

Gladiatori Moderni by Piero Pompili

For fifteen years Piero Pompili photographed the world of boxing, frequenting gyms and practice rings in Rome and Naples.

For Pompili boxing is not a pretext for portraying idealized men confronting one another in a kind of clash of the titans. The modern gladiators he shows are not gods but human beings of flesh, each with his fears and ambitions — his doubts at the approach of the combat, his furious desire to survive it, which makes him accept discipline and sacrifice.

A true boxer must be afraid.

To better portray the intensity and the stakes involved, Pompili has chosen to take his pictures not of the combat itself, but backstage in the wings, from the tough routine of daily training through to the moments of meditation and the last rituals which precede entry into the ring, where the air is thick with tension. Usually photographed in isolation, the boxers are alone as they confront the waves of adrenaline and anxiety during the lead-up to the fight. What is striking is the expression on their faces, which stare at the lens as if it were a mirror, defiant or melancholy, conveying snatches of their existence. The bodies themselves speak, too: the close-up of an arm with the veins outstanding — the expressive power of an arm or a torso, evoking an armor that is ready to be worn.

If they are to claim victory, either in the ring or in their lives, the opponent they must defeat is, above all, themselves.

Gladiatori Moderni by Piero Pompili is published in April and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk

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