The Fight Back faces domestic violence head on – in the ring

Darklight documents the journey of ten women in a boxing programme for the fight against domestic violence, in collaboration with photographer Rebecca Naen.

8 July 2024

Global photography brand Darklight has commissioned photo series The Fight Back, with an accompanying exhibition, short and photobook. Shot by photographer Rebecca Naen, the photo documentary series captures the journey of ten women “on an intensive physical training programme, culminating in a fight in the boxing ring, in order to raise awareness about domestic abuse”. As part of a debut programme orchestrated by Fight Forward (an initiative started by former GB champion Lesley Sackey), the project uses boxing as a tool to conquer trauma and allow participants to reclaim control and share their stories of survival.

Darklight co-founder and a participant in the programme herself, Sarah Williams, shares how the project was not only a gruelling physical challenge but also a way for her to tackle a very personal subject: “My own experience of domestic violence was an extremely difficult and scary time in my life, but something I’ve always brushed under the carpet as just ‘something that happened’. For me, boxing has been a safe space where I can feel empowered and strong, mentally and physically,” she says. So when Lesley reached out with Fight Forward, Sarah recognised an opportunity to create something positive from her past experiences and platform the issue of domestic violence to a wider audience.


Darklight: The Fight Back (Copyright © Rebecca Naen, 2024)

Commissioned by Darklight, Rebecca set out to document the participants’ six-day-a-week training regime and the finale of boxing match fights at West London’s All Stars Boxing Gym. When speaking about her process of documenting, Rebecca shares: “For me, creating a safe space was the most important thing, especially for the interview element. We decided on a mix of interviews and portraits in a studio, a shadowing session at training, and then fight night. We didn’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed by my presence, or that I was intruding in any way [...] This was their journey and not mine.”

Capturing fly-on-the-wall moments, shooting in between boxing ring ropes, and through changing room doors, Rebecca’s images capture the authentic rough edges of each woman’s journeys – a window into the bravery needed to be there. “A lot of the women talked about how much they had to fight themselves during this journey, it was a huge mental battle, way more than the physical battle. [...] They kept turning up, kept opening their wounds, kept looking forward,” the photographer says. “I was truly honoured to be able to document this journey, to be trusted with something so raw and personal.”

Compiled into a 100-page photobook designed by Gabby Vicente at Darklight, Rebecca’s images are chronicled into an editorial project around the concept of “heroines of the ring”, inspired by the patron saint of France, Joan of Arc. “Known for courage, resilience, and unwavering determination”, Gabby aimed to echo the historical figure’s journey in today’s fight against domestic abuse. “Our vision for the book was to blend modernity with a sporty edge, subtly incorporating medieval elements,” says Gabby. The designer explains: “The women featured in the photobook aren’t just survivors – they’re warriors, finding strength and solidarity through boxing to reclaim their lives [..] This influenced our choice of modern gothic and bold sans-serif fonts, delicate graphics, and a vibrant colour palette, all aimed at evoking feelings of majesty, courage, and vibrancy that resonate with our empowering concept.”

To enrich these fierce fighting visuals and medieval elements, the book is interspersed with bright red pages of pull quotes from the women’s exchanges during their time on the programme – an insight into the highs and lows of the experience, and a testament to the spirit of encouragement that was cultivated between them. A more holistic representation of the programme from its typographic punctuation, the book aims to highlight what’s beyond the portraits and training shots; the strength and solidarity the participants found through boxing. Rebecca concludes: “I hope people can take power from it. Inspiration to fight back for themselves too. That you are stronger than you know, you are loved, you as you are all you need to be, and if someone is trying to take that away from you, know there is support.”

The Fight Back Photobook was published in a limited edition with 100 per cent of profits funding the Fight Forward Initiative, aimed to help survivors of domestic violence “triumph over trauma” through boxing. If you are seeking any advice or support concerning domestic violence or have been affected by domestic abuse, UK charities Women’s Aid and Refuge offer a number of life-saving services across England, working to end domestic violence against women and children.

GalleryDarklight: The Fight Back (Copyright © Rebecca Naen, 2024)

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Darklight: The Fight Back (Copyright © Rebecca Naen, 2024)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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