Jona Frank






The Modern Kids


“Although some of the most gentlemanly people I have ever met are boxers, for Jona to go into a boxing gym as a woman is a very rare thing. I used to visit a gym out in Las Vegas called Johnny Tocco’s that had a sign which read, No Women Allowed. But Jona’s boxers let her have this experience. They wanted to share their moment of glory with her, and she in turn made heroes of them in her photographs. These pictures will be placed on the mantles and the walls in their homes. People will take notice. Their hard work will matter.“

Bruce Weber

from the introduction of The Modern Kids


In 2010 a friend brought me to an amateur boxing gym near Liverpool in Northern England. From the minute I saw the interior of the gym with its yellow and red wall I knew I had to make portraits in front of it and I knew the boys would be amazing subjects.


Outside of the gym, I wanted to glimpse their lives, their girlfriends, their neighborhood-- to hint at the tough young man with his pretty girl, but also to stress the exaggerated contrast between masculine and feminine that is part of this culture.


Much of my work is about adolescence and the developing identity of a person. In The Modern Kids, my third monograph, I set out to show the grit and toughness of the boys, as well as the courage it takes to get in the boxing ring where it is constant movement and focus. After the fights the boys shared their victories and their defeats, their moment of glory. I wanted you to feel their struggle, their sweat, their intensity.


In some ways, it’s a beautiful metaphor for making a portrait. Not that I have to endure the sting of being hit, but my work is about an exchange between two people and, while there is no winner or loser in photography, success comes from judging when that moment is right. And, it’s not just about what happens IN the ring. It’s about what happens before -- how you take the person in emotionally, connect with them and observe.