JTF (just the facts): Published by Dienacht Publishing in 2015 (here). Softcover, 48 pages, with 33 black and white photographs, held by an elastic strap, with blind embossing on the cover. In an edition of 200 copies. Includes a short introduction text. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: Anna Konda is a small publication by a young Polish photographer named Katarzyna Mazur. Mazur currently lives in Berlin, where she studied photography at the Ostkreuzschule School of Photography and Design and currently works on her personal projects. As she was doing research for her graduate project on women and sports, she came across a Berlin-based female fight club; Mazur photographed female wrestlers there in 2013 and 2014, and the final project was recently published as a book by the independent German publisher dienacht.
The Female Fight Club was founded in 2010 with the idea to renew a tradition popular in the Golden Twenties in Berlin. Anna Konda, who founded the club together with another fighter nicknamed Red Devil, grew up in East Germany, and fighting with boys was part of her childhood reality. Today she is a kind of cult figure in Berlin. The club is open to everybody: beginners and professionals, young and old, and to women of any weight. There are no set rules and no judges; only the people actually fighting know the parameters set for any particular match. It is not unusual for fights to match a bodybuilder and a martial arts master, and occasionally the fights get brutal. Bloody noses are a regular thing – yet if it goes a bit too far, the fighters pause for a break. They meet in a rented room known as Marzahn, and the audience is pretty small, mostly men.
The book consists of a selection of black and white photographs of female fighters, and as we flip the pages, we see portraits of fighters, intense action sequences, close-up details of bodies, and occasionally audience members and quiet moments before or between fights. An image of a female fighter sitting on her haunches with her head down serves as an introduction to the book. Her hair looks slightly wet and her skin is glossy – maybe she is taking a deep breath after a fight or getting ready for one. Often Mazur gets quite close to the action, taking photographs of crossed legs and embraces as they interchange with dynamic fight movements.
Some of the images depict a so-called “cat fight” – it’s a topless battle, where slapping, pinching, and hair pulling are all fair game; it is one of the most popular fights. But it’s not all rough and tough – Mazur’s eye also explores the femininity of the club members. She captures sensual moments, and facial expressions of joy and satisfaction. She shows us women who are proud of their bodies and know that being strong can also be attractive and sexy. It’s also clear the women all come to the club from different walks of life, and have families and jobs, a world different from the one on the mat.
Anna Konda is a well produced small softcover photobook, with thoughtful details like blind embossing on the cover and an elastic strap to hold he pages in place. The cover of the book and all the pages are pale flesh colored paper, probably playing on a reference to bodies or skin. The visual flow moves between smaller images (just a third of a page) and full bleed intense shots, recreating the back and forth movement of the fights and the energy of the fighters. This is balanced by the fragility of the book, that goes in hand with the femininity of the captured subject. Due to its delicate design, Anna Konda works well as a small, intimate, photobook. Providing a glimpse of an otherwise hidden underground subculture, it explores a female ideal which embodies both physical strength and femininity.
Collector’s POV: Katarzyna Mazur does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via her website (linked above).