“During my research I came across women who worship their bodies. They nourish, form and thoughen them. Their motivations are as diverse as those women’s personalities are. It may be their statement about the modern perception of women, their proof for the unity of femininity and strength, yet at the same time their instrument to be seen and desired”.
-Katarzyna Mazur

Katarzyna Mazur 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 series consists of a selection of black and white photographs of female fighters, we see intense action sequences, close-up details of bodies, 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 series. 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.

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