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Photos capture intensity of wrestling

Photographer Thomas McGovern, a professor at Cal State San Bernardino, chats with visitors at the reception for his “Hard Boys + Bad Girls” photography exhibit and book launch at Andi Campognone Projects Gallery in Pomona on Saturday. The exhibit is the culmination of a five-year project to record the lives of amateur wrestlers in the Empire Wrestling Federation in San Bernardino. The exhibit runs through May 29. / photo by Nicholas Mitzenmacher

Photographer Thomas McGovern, a professor at Cal State San Bernardino, chats with visitors at the reception for his “Hard Boys + Bad Girls” photography exhibit and book launch at Andi Campognone Projects Gallery in Pomona on Saturday. The exhibit is the culmination of a five-year project to record the lives of amateur wrestlers in the Empire Wrestling Federation in San Bernardino. The exhibit runs through May 29. / photo by Nicholas Mitzenmacher

by Rachel Smith
Staff Writer

Hard boys and bad girls rumbled their way through the streets of Pomona Saturday evening to the Andi Campognone Projects Gallery where the photography exhibit “Hard Boys + Bad Girls” by Thomas McGovern was featured.

McGovern’s stars, from the School of Hard Knocks, mingled and autographed images for the adoring fans that came to meet their favorite wrestlers and take a deeper look into the wrestling world McGovern brought to life.

“The wrestling is authentic, incredibly athletic. The blood is real, real injuries and very intense,” McGovern said. “They dream of being a superstar.”

The wrestlers of McGovern’s photography exhibit and book are true athletes that work real life jobs by day and fight for their dreams by night. McGovern was able to capture the authentic struggle and fight in each athlete.

“It’s real life, happening right now,” Amy Contreras, photography enthusiasts and San Juan Capistrano resident said. “I love these images, they are incredible.”

Andi Campognone, gallery owner and artist, rolled out the red carpet for McGovern and his wrestling superstars. The fans were able to walk the red carpet and take photos with their favorite wrestlers and McGovern. Campognone has worked closely with McGovern over the past few years.

McGovern had surgery five weeks prior to the big event and was not able to assist Campognone with the installation of his exhibit. That evening he was only able to see the exhibit and the final layout.

“I love the layout,” McGovern said. “Andi is fantastic and it was easy to hand it all over to her to do.”

The wrestlers got a kick out of seeing themselves on the walls of the gallery.

“The pictures are amazing,” said Yyan Nakano, a female wrestler from the School of Hard Knocks who has 30 matches under her belt. “It’s strange to see me up there.”

Nakano has been training for more than five years and fell in love with wrestling back in 1980s when she first saw women’s wrestling on television.

David the Bruiser has been wrestling for over nine years and described the real injuries he sustained while rumbling in the ring.

“I dislocated my shoulder and cracked about all of my ribs,” the Bruiser said.

McGovern who is originally from New York came to California in 1997. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a master’s of fine art degree in 2000. McGovern is now a professor at Cal State San Bernardino and manages the graduate photography program.

“Students flock to his classes and his opinion is sought after,” Richard Johnston, fellow Cal State San Bernardino professor said of McGovern. “He is well respected.”

McGovern began shooting photos of the wrestlers in 2000 through 2005.

He stumbled upon the School of Hard Knocks while riding his bike through his San Bernardino neighborhood. He wanted to document these amazing individuals that worked so hard to achieve their dreams.

For more information on McGovern, go to thomasmcgovern.net for the School of Hard Knocks go to empirewrestlingfederation.com and for the Andi Campognone Projects go to andicampognone.com.

Rachel Smith can be reached at rachel.smith@laverne.edu.

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1 Response to " Photos capture intensity of wrestling "

  1. Iran says:

    Hi, dear. Your website wake us up to the importance of Wrestling for women and others, but unfortunately in Iran the government don’t let girls and women take part in this kind of sport and everybody that want to protest against Iranian legislation must be killed by the Iranian government or Iranian government put girls and women and boys in dangerous prisons for a long time and torture girls and boys and women and men that want freedom. And the government say, “taking part in this sport causes that women and girls go to hell. We hope that the UN asks Iranian government and make it let women and girls take part in this kind of sport and compete with boys and men.”
    thanks a lot for your good website.
    Hope you be successful.
    Iran

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