For centuries, boxing has been seen by some as the ultimate primal
battle. Some even regard boxing, and the choreography played out in the
ring, as the most beautiful of sports. Throughout history, noses have
been bloodied and broken, and brains shaken loose in a sport that
others see simply as barbaric and brutal. Yet regardless of whether we
like boxing or not, it holds a fascination that cannot be denied.
Boxing provokes discussion and debate, and can divide any crowd into
camps for and against. Looking at Nicolai Howalt’s images of young boys
who’ve had a beating, sometimes a serious beating, we find something
moving, as subjects stand before us in pairs, photographed immediately
before and after their debut boxing match. We can feel the tension and
anticipation they feel about what is about to happen. And we can
empathize with them as they enter the ring, possibly for the very first
While boxing provides the framework, what we witness here is far
more universal: young people facing an imminent challenge and searching
for their place in this world—their identity. We can only try to
decipher whether the boys here have found their place. Some look like
they have. Others may have to search for their identity elsewhere,
possibly in a less damaging, and damning, arena as the boxing ring.
Nicolai Howalt himself is an ex-boxer who has been through endless
rounds in the ring. The artist’s own experiences have made it possible
to create a project in which each pair of portraits emanates empathy
and compassion for young boys on the cusp of adulthood.
Text by Lasse Krog Moller, Translation by Jane Rowley.
Nicolai Howalt is a visual artist. Boxer
(2003) is a photographic portrait project about young boys shot before
and after a match. His work is represented in major public and private
collections, including Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León,
Spain; Museum of Fine Art Houston, U.S.; and
The Danish Arts Foundation, Denmark. Howalt is represented by Martin
Asbæk Gallery, Denmark, and Silverstein Gallery, New York.