A producer, feminist, adult cinema entertainer, and bjj practitioner, Shawn Tamaribuchi, is expansive in her endeavors. In addition to a pro-fighter MMA status and a bjj purple belt, she also holds a BA in Photography / Digital Media from Scripps College, and has completed studies at the Glasgow School of Art. For the past six years she has worked in the commercial and performing arts worlds. Her primary interests reside in the realm of digital-media and experimental art, and her performances and visual work has been seen locally, nationally, and internationally. Her previous film, an animation short called Kenn’s Dream, screened at the Mad Cat Women’s International Film Festival and is included in the Asian American Media curriculim at Bryn Mawr College.
Shawn’s latest project is entitled The Female Fighter Project. It is an on going portraiture series documenting female fighters and those who have made impact around the globe. This was a result of her sojourn that began in 2010. Her desire for travel, exploration, and change of pace led her on a journey visiting and training with some of the best female fighters across the globe from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo. With just over 70 lbs of luggage consisting of three Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gis, 2 pairs of Muay Thai gloves, numerous mouth pieces, rash guards, shin pads and head gear as well as a very heavy Hasselblad 500c camera with loads of 120mm film, she was on a cross-cultural exploration.
After paying over $500 in overweight luggage fees and more airport security lines than one could imagine, she landed back in California a year later in 2011. She now is continuing her project stateside working for the largest public HYPERLINK “http://raykophoto.com/”photographic community center west of the Mississippi.
For more info contact: HYPERLINK “http://www.liarphoto.com” www.liarphoto.com
Photo credit: Belinda Dunne / Princesses of Pain
“I have had not only the privilege of photographing some of the greatest female fighters in the world, but have often gotten to train with them. I started this project in Rio de Janeiro at Kyra Gracie’s first Women’s Camp. I stayed a few months in Rio, training at different academies and watching tournaments. I absolutely love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so being able to snap a few rough shots at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trails was a real treat and got me more invested in shooting other female athletes. I spent the next few months in Tokyo, Japan training at Abe Ani Combat Club with Megumi Fujii’s all-star women’s fight team and make an effort to visit them every year. The girls there called me a camera nerd, which I take pride in and is totally true. I work in a photo gallery and facilities and get to play with film cameras every week. I love it!
Coming back to the states has allowed me to further expand this project since the Bay Area has such a wealth of fighters. I recently shot new Bay Area transplant by way of Canada, Alexis Davis, right before her Invicta 2 victory, as well as Lana Stefanac, Amanda Lucas, Colleen Schneider, Sarah D’Alelio, Elaina Maxwell and some of other terrific local fighters. On occasion, some of the BJJ legends have rolled through and I try to get a shot or two of them when they do. The Sweaty Betties held a three day, women’s BJJ camp by Leticia Ribeiro. I was able to get a quick shot of Michelle Nicolini while she was getting ready for Mundials win in 2011. Again, the whole experience has been very amazing.
Currently, I am applying for funding and looking for sponsors to help me continue this project as well as expand it. I am hopping to expand this project with a grant, taking a closer look at this community through a focus on female fighters who are also survivors of abuse. Continuing to shoot with film, I will spend in-depth periods of time with these fighters, documenting their lives while working with them to create first-hand, written accounts of their personal journeys. I look forward to capturing their daily routines, family lives, sweat and blood as they prepare for upcoming fights along with sharing the personal relationships we develop through working together. Each fighter will have the opportunity to tell her story in her own words which will be presented with these images.
The world of MMA — and professional sports in general — is not a particularly hospitable place for women. MMA was popularized by the UFC fight production which began in the early 1990’s as a no-holds-barred sport and today is one of the bloodiest forms of mainstream entertainment. A female fighter can expect to make 10% of what her male counterparts make, if she is lucky enough to even get a fight. Often, female fights are treated as side or freak shows to the men’s competitions, and the trivializing comments from spectators and press reflect this mentality. You are more likely to find information on a female fighter’s breast size than her fight history. Numerous times, I have heard audiences shout homophobic and misogynist comments at female fighters. The culture has slightly improved since the time in which I first got involved but still has light years to go.