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12/13/2009

The Boxer's picture.

Steve Russell, Staff Photographer

It was leaning up against the wall in Ken Faught's office.

A black and white picture in a 16x20 frame.

Why I had gone into the Photo Editor's office that day in August was forgotten as I looked at the picture.

"Nice picture, Ken, yours?" I asked.

"Nope, a reader dropped it off," Ken answered, "Guess who?"

The image of a man sleeping, well, more passed out, on a small bit of cloth under a sign painted on a building declaring "The King of Good Times" was strangely beautiful. 

A great example of street photography.

The photographer, who was inspired by August's Big Picture Feature,  took the picture off his wall and brought it down to the Toronto Star hoping that the paper might use it?

No other than World Boxing Hall of Famer, George Chuvalo.

This touched me more than anything. George is a man whose life has been chronicled in front of a lot of cameras, his boxing days and later in life, family tragedies claimed three of his sons and his first wife.

The idea of George picking up a camera to chronicle life, and doing it well, I took as a compliment to my profession.

The King of Good Times

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"The King of Good Times"

Photo by George Chuvalo 

George Chuvalo was on holidays with his wife Joanne in Goa, India.

As his wife shopped the market place in Margao, George wandered around the same Marketplace when he stumbled across this "poor soul, sleeping on the thinnest of blankets" 

That Sunday morning George was carrying his Minolta x-370 camera with a 45 mm lens loaded with some black and white film when he came across the man sleeping under a sign that read "Kingfisher, The king of good times"

Chuvalo's first thought was,"Holy Crips, that is the opposite of the King of Good Times!"

He took a picture of the man, framing him up with the sign.

Chuvalo likes the black and white film because it's "more stark and more emotional and more real and dramatic, especially for that type of picture, it captures the mood perfectly."

Chuvalo, whose friends, some in AA, admire the picture when they drop by the house, says, "This is a tragic picture, an awful picture about life, this guy was sleeping on the smallest and thinnest piece of blanket. After I shot the picture I felt guilty as I walked away, I should have slipped a sawbuck in his pocket"

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The hands that rained down so much pain to his boxing rivals dwarf his Minolta X-370. 

Chuvalo started taking pictures with a Pentax camera in the early 60's. He also had the occasional chat with legendary Toronto Star Photographer Boris Spremo about photography.

"I drive people nuts taking pictures," Chuvalo confesses.

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George Chuvalo and his camera 

A few other pictures that he is proud of, although he is unsure where the negatives might be, are a security guard at an old amphitheatre in Croatia, the guard was half asleep on a chair with his pistol half out of his holster.

A picture of a friend jumping from a balcony to his balcony at a hotel, 27 floors up.

A picture of his son Jesse when he was 8-9 reflected on a table.

-srussell@thestar.ca

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Wow!!! I'm impressed, would like to see more pic's from "The Champ".

Hi Steve, diana spremo here (Boris' youngest) -- thank you, I enjoyed this post, not only because George is my Godfather, but because it's nice to see examples of casual photographers like George treating photography with respect, and people like you reminding us that it is an art form. Unfortunately, in today's age, everyone with a cell phone is a photographer. (PS - you dont need to post this publicly, just wanted to comment). thanks.

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