Justin Kingsley’s photography exhibit, Georges & Guy, explores two individuals and their passion for karate
The Georges & Guy photography exhibit by Justin Kingsley portrays the intimate relationship that exists between two friends who are passionate about karate.
Georges St-Pierre is a mixed martial artist and former Welterweight Champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Guy Guindon, a Saint Sulpice priest and a karate master, has practiced this sport with St-Pierre for many years.
Karate is traditionally linked to fighting and self-defense. However, the photographs and videos featured in the exhibit focus on the metaphysical aspect of this sport. To attain and maintain the required mental conditioning, self-discipline and humility, karate artists are required to practice “katas.” This word is used to describe the patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs, on a regular basis.
According to information contained in the exhibit’s pamphlet, when St-Pierre informed Kingsley that he would be meeting Guindon at the Saint Sulpice Seminary later on one day to practice katas, the photographer said, “a priest, a church, two black belts, a few katas and a makeshift dojo instead of catacombs. I had to be there.” So he grabbed his Leica M6 camera and joined them. “I relied on the same photographic tools I’ve known for years and not an ounce of digital technology,” he said. This included using only the lighting that was available.
The exhibit starts with several videos that show the two friends practicing katas. They stand straight, eyes closed, appearing to work through a mental preparation before performing the movements. They proceed to discuss them and consult their kata workbook.
The photographs show St-Pierre and Guindon dressed in black-belted white karate suits in a dusty gym with mouldy damaged walls, floor tiles that belong in history and low-tech fitness equipment. The images Kingsley has captured emanate a feeling that the space had been transformed into a “dojo,” a sacred space where martial arts are practiced.
The first of the 17 photographs is of a punching bag held together with masking tape juxtaposed with a crucifix nailed to the wall. This clearly establishes a sacred tone to the whole event and suggests a link between location and the tenets of the sport. The remaining photographs show the master and student either in action as they work through the katas or in repose. The last, entitled “Fleurdelisé,” is of a tattoo on the back of St-Pierre’s shin that playfully puts a Quebec stamp on the exhibit.
The images are appealing and command both attention and interest because they look real, not staged. Kingsley’s use of natural lighting and his focus on the décor and furnishings of the room create a calm, peaceful aura. His choices of captions that have sacred connotations reinforce the overarching theme of personal, physical and spiritual development.
The George & Guy exhibit runs until Dec. 18 at the Phi Centre, 407 St. Pierre St. in Old Montreal. Entrance is free.