Ringside Access - Lori Grinker Captures Mike Tyson's Rise: The B&H Photography Podcast


Mike Tyson has long been a boxing legend and, for this week’s podcast, we speak with the photographer who was there from the very start. Lori Grinker was just a student with a semester-long assignment when she first met Tyson as a 13-year-old kid under the tutelage of famed boxing trainer Cus D’Amato. Grinker’s inside access over the next decade offers an intimate portrait of Tyson that few others have seen, and is now published in the book Mike Tyson. Listen in as Grinker describes how she learned on the job as the only woman ringside, transforming from student to pro in step with Tyson’s meteoric rise. She also weighs in about gear choices, making distinctions between photographing with reflex cameras and rangefinders, and sharing thoughts on shooting black-and-while film vs. digital captures in monochrome mode. Listen in to learn how she juggled documentary coverage with celebrity reportage and sports photography in what was truly a wild ride.

Guest: Lori Grinker

Photographs © Lori Grinker, Courtesy of Contact Press Images

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Cus D’Amato at the gym with Tyson demonstrating his Peek-a-boo …
Mike Tyson drinking hot chocolate, Camille Ewald and Cus D'Amato's…
Mike Tyson with his pigeons, Catskill, NY, November 1985.
Mike Tyson vs Trevor Berbick fight, Las Vegas Hilton, November 22, 1986.
Mike Tyson, 14, at Cus D’Amato’s Boxing Gym, Catskill, NY, 1981.
Mike Tyson book cover, photographs by Lori Grinker
Lori Grinker is reflected in the barbershop mirror as she photographs…
Mike Tyson visiting his old neighborhood and showing off his Rolls…
Mike Tyson with Robin Givens and her mother, Ruth Roper, at his wedding…
Mike Tyson studies his lines for The Undisputed Truth, a Broadway play…

Episode Timeline

  • 2:02: Grinker’s photojournalism class assignment and shifting to focus on Mike Tyson
  • 4:40: Tyson’s dedicated study under legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato
  • 7:26: The trajectory of Grinker’s photos—from school project to documenting Tyson’s daily life to published news stories
  • 9:04: The learning curve, from daily life to photographing boxing ringside
  • 11:55: Enlisting Tyson’s help to get paid by Don King
  • 13:02: Robin Givens, her mother the publicist, and control over Grinker’s pictures
  • 15:34: Tyson’s interest in seeing himself in pictures
  • 17:04: Grinker’s embedded access and hurdles of Tyson’s rise to fame
  • 20:12: Grinker’s experiences in dealing with a no-show photo subject
  • 21:44: Working with photo agencies and joining Contact Press Images
  • 24:36: The benefits of Grinker’s agency support: Canon camera gear, exhibitions, and books
  • 24:58: Grinker’s advice for photographers seeking agency representation
  • 26:26: The importance of owning the rights to your pictures and registering the copyright
  • 28:10: Episode break
  • 28:42: Lori Grinker’s photo gear: From Nikkormat to Leica to Canon and beyond
  • 29:50: Grinker’s first experience with digital—embedded on a ship the during Iraqi invasion
  • 30:36: Learning to use flash and shooting with black-and-white film
  • 31:41: Making the switch to color film for photo assignments
  • 32:00: Comparing the shooting style of reflex cameras and rangefinders
  • 34:52: Grinker’s thoughts on teaching students about depth of field
  • 35:32: Learning by doing and Grinker’s earliest teachers
  • 36:52: Grain vs pixels: shooting black-and-white film vs. digital in black-and-white mode
  • 40:50: Film type, Kodak chemistry, and printing with Agfa Portriga paper
  • 42:02: Printing gelatin silver prints for upcoming ClampArt exhibit
  • 44:08: Grinker’s Mike Tyson book and the 2014 book contract
  • 45:12: Reconnecting with Tyson for Spike Lee’s Broadway production
  • 48:18: Choosing a book designer, going through the pictures, making a huge book, and then cuts
  • 49:44: What does Mike Tyson think of the finished book?
  • 50:32: It’s more of a photography book than a sports book—a time capsule, a slice of pop culture
  • 52:30: Lori Grinker’s upcoming events—the book launch and ClampArt exhibit
  • 54:34: Grinker’s website and social media contacts

Guest Bio

Lori Grinker is an award-winning photographer whose work straddles documentary and fine art. Internationally published and exhibited, her long-term, non-linear projects often mix photography with video, audio recording, text, installation, books, and collage. The recipient of many awards and the author of three books, Grinker is a dedicated educator for university programs and private workshops. She is a senior member of Contact Press Images and is represented by ClampArt Gallery, in New York City.

Stay Connected:

Personal Website: https://www.lorigrinker.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lgrinker
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lgrinker
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorigrinker/

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Shawn C Steiner