Stephanie Trapp eats, sleeps and breathes boxing (and photography.) The San Francisco-based shooter has photographed both sides of Saturday’s tilt between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos ‘Chino’ Maidana as well as a host of world-ranked fighters in big time fights. We picked her brain about making a go of it in the world of freelance sports photography and boxing—to be honest, we still can’t tell which sounds tougher.
Kyle Magin: I started following your boxing photography on Twitter, and you do promo shots for Showtime as well as in-fight shooting. How’d you start shooting big-time boxing?
Stephanie Trapp: In 2011, I found out about a fight in San Francisco (where I live). I’ve always been a photographer, and I’ve always had a weird affinity for violence (…probably my Mortal Kombat habit). I decided this would be awesome to shoot, so I emailed people until someone said yes. (That person was John Chavez – thanks, John!) From there, I networked with some media people and began shooting for 15Rounds.com via Mario Ortega (thanks, Mario!). I also met this awesome family in Salinas, California—the Garcias—who formerly trained and managed Eloy Perez, and who now train and manage Paul Mendez. Early on, they were supportive of my work, and helped me have the confidence to keep going (thank you, Garcias!). Soon, Fight News saw my work and started using me as their Northern California photographer. I was doing all of this work for free, or for $20 here and there, but didn’t care, because I loved it. I began to meet more people in the boxing world, and had since joined this boxing community on Twitter. I ended up going out to Tahoe to shoot Robert Guerrero along with a writer for The Ring who I met from Twitter (Mike Coppinger – thanks, Mike!). On the way up, I got a call from an unknown number. It was Chris DeBlasio from Showtime, and it was one of the best things ever (thanks, Chris!). I didn’t hear from them for about a year after that, but it was the best call I have probably ever gotten (except when I was 11 and my mom told me I had a little brother). It was to shoot behind the scenes of the Mayweather Guerrero commercial in Las Vegas. It felt like all of my hard (and free) work had finally paid off. Now, every time Showtime calls me to work for them is the best day all over again. It has been a long road, but well worth it.
KM: Like myself, you’re originally from Michigan, which fans know has a great boxing history with champs like Floyd Mayweather, Tommy Hearns and Joe Louis. Were you a fan of the sport growing up in MI or did you get into the sport later on?
ST: I was not a fan growing up, but I very much appreciate learning about the rich boxing history from Michigan. Coincidentally, I obtained my photography degree in Grand Rapids, Michigan – home of TBE ;). When I finally got to photograph Floyd, it felt like my career was coming full circle.
KM: What do you shoot fights with? What’s your dream setup?
ST: I currently shoot fights with 2 Canon 5D Mark IIIs; one with a 24-70mm lens, and one with a 70-200mm lens. I would love to be shooting with a 1DX, but they are out of my price range for now. I am much better off then when I first started, shooting with one Canon 7D and some cheap lenses. I am grateful for this, though, because I learned to work with what I have. I didn’t have the top-of-the-line equipment to fall back on, so I had to rely on both my photographic and my problem solving skills. It involved a lot of moving around (my best lenses were prime lenses – meaning you couldn’t zoom at all), and switching lenses VERY quickly, but I made it work. Now especially, I feel like in any given situation, I can always make it work.
KM: You’re a freelancer, and for people outside the freelance photography world, that’s a lot of late nights editing, a lot of networking to land gigs and a lot of work the day of a shoot. Give us an idea about what it takes to make it as a sports photographer today.
ST: All I know is that it takes a lot of hard work. When it comes down to it, this isn’t just a job, it is my art. I am a perfectionist in my work, and I won’t put anything out until I am 100 percent satisfied with it. That said, it was a learning curve, because sports photography is fast paced – both in action and in timeliness. People want photos fast. I have had to find a balance between perfection and time. I have challenged myself these last few months to put out photos during the fight so people can be updated in real time. There are so many variables in every job, every time, that you can get used to it, but it doesn’t get any easier.
KM: Your Instagram followers know you were in Vegas last week to shoot the ShoBox card, and you’ve shot big fights there before. Is it difficult to keep your focus when you’re shooting in Sin City?
ST: Nope. I love Vegas (and fun) so much, but nothing is more important to me than my work. I think it is because I waited so long for a chance like this, that I wouldn’t do anything to possibly compromise it. I know I have to be on my game all the time, so I operate myself accordingly. I hang out, but I make sure that nothing is going to affect my focus.
KM: From the outside there don’t appear to be a lot of women working in the boxing world. Is that accurate?
ST: I think there are way more women than people realize. I didn’t know at first either, but now I know a bunch of great ladies working in boxing. At the end of the day, though, I like to be a photographer first, and a girl second.
KM: What under-the-radar fighter should fans make a point to see?
ST: As I said before, I started off photographing in Northern California, so I have a bunch of guys up there I follow and photograph. Tino Avila is one to watch. He is definitely on the rise, and has fought on Golden Boy’s Fox Sports 1 cards. He is skillful and exciting, and so nice. Andy Vences is another one of my local favorites, and is steadily building his record. He is really great to watch. Paul Mendez, Ricardo Pinell, Jonathan Chicas, and Guy Robb also fall into my favorites. I recently got to photograph heavyweight Gerald Washington, and I think we could see really good things from him in the future.
KM: Your social media followers see a lot of beach landscapes from your base in San Francisco on your Instagram feed. That’s a pretty far departure from the intimate nature of boxing photography. What do you like to shoot the most away from the ring? What challenges you the most as a photographer?
ST: First of all, when I meet people who say, “I follow you on Instagram!” I always reply with, “I’m sorry.” Haha. I shoot everything. I can’t not be taking photos, all the time. Its like my disease. My favorite quote is by a street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, said to be the father of photojournalism: “You just have to live, and life will give you pictures.” Instagram is my way of logging all my adventures; of keeping track of things for myself, moreso than for anyone else. I don’t care how many followers, or likes, or unfollowers I have. The photo documentation is what matters to me the most. (It is also refreshing that sometimes when I meet people who follow me on IG, they already know how weird I am, lol).
KM: What are you reading right now?
ST: I am reading a book called, “Against Happiness.” It is essentially about the unimportance of being happy all the time, and I really believe in that. It argues that some of the best stuff—writing, art, acting—has come from the state of melancholia. As an artist, I can fully agree with that. I always say that I wasn’t meant to live a regular life. I think in this sense, regular is synonymous with happy. Not to say I’m not happy, but I am not looking to be happy all the time. It’s boring. I enjoy the ups and downs that life throws at you. I think that is why I find boxing so appealing…very extreme ups and downs.
ST: I am not even sure how to predict Mayhem. All I know is that the build-up to the fight has been really exciting. I was actually really surprised at the announcement of the rematch, because the first one was so “close.” Floyd Mayweather is a smart man, and I don’t think he would put himself in this position if he wasn’t confident. On the other hand, I think Chino will bring it. I respect the fact that Mayweather is challenging himself, choosing to fight again against who some say was his toughest opponent thus far. I can’t wait to watch it.