The Godfather – Quick Q&A with Chris Cozzone

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 It didn’t take long in this industry to hear the name Chris Cozzone while researching combat sports in New Mexico in preparation to start KNUXX.  Chris has put an indelible mark on the combat sports community here.  His work is referenced and revered in multiple articles, blog posts and in hushed conversations among fighters and his peers.  He is “The Godfather” of combat sports photography in NewMexico– not the first but, as far as I can tell, one of the most respected.  Chris was willing to take a few minutes to share some of his history with us in this quick Q&A session.

How did you get your start in photography & why did you choose to get into combat sports photography and for how long have you been in it?
   As long as I can remember, I’ve had cameras – but I’ve been shooting professionally since 1990. Really got into it while living in Albuquerque and studying journalism at UNM – started shooting gangbangers, prostitutes and news (for the Albuquerque Tribune), then left NM for NYC where I picked up the action, adding prisons to my subject matter. Made a name for myself with the prison and street stuff, had stuff published in NY Times, Newsweek, Playboy and got in with SIPA, as well.
Then I got into boxing …. Shot a fight at the legendary Blue Horizon in Philly in 1997 and was instantly hooked. Moved back to the Southwest in 2000 and started shooting the fights full time – launched to keep me busy on the local front and, at the same time, hooked up with bigger websites and mags to cover the bigger fights in Las Vegas, Nev., where I currently reside.
Been shooting the fights full time since ’00.

What was your first equipment purchase and if money wasn’t an issue, what equipment would you own?
   I’ve always been a Nikon man. Until digital came along, used Nikormats, FM2s and an F4 – then moved on to the top shelf digital Nikons. Using D3 and patiently awaiting the D4 Nikon has promised us in ’11-’12.
If money was no issue, I’d have the same stuff, but more of ‘em – and would probably pick up a top level Leica for the hell for it.

Where/How did you learn the art?
   By shooting, shooting, shooting … I firmly believe you don’t really learn the “art” of it – you either have an eye for shooting or you don’t. You can learn the technical aspects and surely improve your game but if you can’t frame a shot, and don’t “see” the shot, you will only get technically – not artistically – better.

What keeps you coming back to the events and taking shots?
  I’m an adrenaline junkie and I love the sport. I do not, however, like sports – only the fight game. Shooting or watching football or basketball, for instance, bores the crap out of me. Baseball is okay if you’re drinking beer and eating hot dogs and you’re at Wrigley Field (I’m born and raised in Chicago) but sports, in general, is a cop-out for good photography.  There are good photogs who do sports but can’t take a decent shot in real life situations on the street.
What else keeps me coming back? It’s never dull getting “the shot.”

What is your favorite aspect of shooting action photography and what is your least favorite aspect?
   Least favorite? That it’s just action and you’re limited in where you can go to frame your shot. I don’t think the promoters or networks would care for me to leap into the ring or scale the fence of the Octagon to get a better or different angle.
Favorite aspect: again, getting a shot that’s different than anything anyone else has produced. Impact shots used to be the bomb but after getting a zillion of them, from covering 40 shows a year over 12 years, it’s no longer enough.  It’s about expression on an athlete’s face – the eyes, the agony, the sheer joy of victory and/or burying your glove in someone else’s face.  And every bout is a different story – you have to start over every single time there’s a first round.

Whose work do you admire/try to emulate when you shoot?
   If you have to emulate anyone, you shouldn’t be shooting!
Admiring is different … Will Hart of HBO keeps my competitive juices going but the real giants of photogs are found in war and real life: guys like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eddie Adams, James Nachtway & Sebastio Salgado – those guys could not take a bad shot.

Do you have a favorite photo or experience?
   Still trying to get it.

Anything else?
   Nope – wait, yes. I’d like to invite readers to really start analyzing – and LOOKING at photos they see on the web. Us photographers are a dying breed – we are trying to make a living and work during an era that no longer values the still image. Everyone has cameras these days. They’re cheap, they’re easy to use and they are all over the place – but not all images are created equal. Take the time to take in the image.

How can people contact you?
By email, thru, thru Twitter (@chriscozzone) or Facebook