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Work / Photography

Photographer Dolly Faibyshev takes us into the ring with sumo wrestling champions

Uninspired photographically by her daily surroundings, New York-based photographer Dolly Faibyshev recently found a new muse in the form of sumo wrestlers. Upon hearing about an upcoming sumo event in her home city, “I saw it as an opportunity to experience something distinctly foreign to me because I’d never photographed something like this before,” Dolly tells It’s Nice That.

Dolly’s photographic series’, from dog shows to documenting Dollypalooza in California, are consistently influenced by the feeling of nostalgia, “one of the reasons this ancient sport appealed to me,” she says. “A display of people dressing up the present to recreate the past is always compelling to me.”

Photographed during just one evening, Dolly took a trip to Broadway for an event hosting three sumo world champions, “Yama, who at 600 lbs is the “heaviest Japanese human being ever”, Byamba from Mongolia and Ray from Egypt,” she explains. The full series, Sumo, portrays a mix of smiling portrait shots of the wrestlers in all their glory to fluid in action fight shots. “For the portraits, the sumo wrestlers spoke very little English so a translator helped me photograph them. The matches themselves were not real, it was more of a demonstration to entertain the spectators,” the photographer explains. Given a few vantage points to photograph the wrestlers in, Dolly rotated around the ring, but it wasn’t until she started to look through the shots that she became “inspired by the purity of the forms, shapes and spatial relationships of the bodies and found myself getting more and more playful with the use of colour and light.”

Due to the difference in dialect, the photographer’s interaction with the wrestlers was fairly limited but nevertheless “they seemed totally up for it and didn’t seem to mind much,” she says. “They were playful and even though there was a language barrier, they seemed to have no problem hamming it up for my benefit. They sat on each other, mugged for the camera, and one of them walked over to me, took my camera, and shyly gestured to do a selfie together.”

Looking back over the series now — which was recently shared via The New Yorker’s photography focused Instagram account, Dolly says she “became fascinated with this sport that I know very little about”. Sumo nestles in amongst the photographer’s other documentary-style images, even though she entered the project “not even realising there’s a connection to my other work, and then I find spectacle and ritual in the strangest places,” says the photographer. “I loved this idea of presenting a ritual that is thousands of years old through a modern lens under colourful Broadway lights.”

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Dolly Faibyshev: Sumo

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Dolly Faibyshev: Sumo