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March 1, 2014

Natalia Vodianova: #Neverstop

The Russian Supermodel Stars in Filmmaker Bruno Aveillan’s Celebration of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games

“What if?” is the question posed by Natalia Vodianova in #Neverstop, the inspirational film directed by the French filmmaker and artist Bruno Aveillan, released today to raise awareness for the athletes competing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games. The short imagines a heavily pregnant Vodianova running through an empty hangar with a prosthetic leg, her goal to challenge peoples’ preconceptions of disability. The Russian model, who left behind a childhood selling fruit on the streets of her home city Nizhniy Novgorod for a celebrated career as the face of brands such as Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent, has long been a champion of families raising children with disabilities, and helps to create play environments for disadvantaged children through her charity the Naked Heart Foundation. Vodianova spoke exclusively to NOWNESS about her motivations launching the  #Neverstop campaign, created with JWT International Moscow and her support of next week’s Paralympic Games.

Can you tell us about working with Russian swimmer Olesya Vladykina, the other female ambassador of the Games?
Natalia Vodianova:
It was incredibly inspiring for me to meet Olesya. She lost her arm in a bus accident that her friend died in, and she told me how she felt afterwards that of course it took a few months to adjust. However there are positive ways that her life has been changed since the accident. She started to appreciate life so much more, alongside the kindness and openness of people. And speaking to Jessica Long, the American swimmer who has 15 gold medals and holds 13 world records by the age of 21, you see someone who really just appreciates the richness of life.

What do you feel when you watch yourself transformed like this?
The visual is not showing a reality but an idea: what if? And that is an important question for all of us. When I saw the last edit of the film I cried. I’m really just glad that it happened and that we made it; a project that was full of little miracles.

Have you seen a shift in how disability is perceived in Russia?
We knew that the stigma of people with disability is still very strong in Russia, so we wanted to show the inspirational side of the Paralympic athletes. The transition towards inclusivity in a country with an infrastructure like Russia will take a very long time because it’s a very big country with it’s own difficulties. I want as many people as possible in Russia to see the film and would love it to speak to their hearts.

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Will Self: On Your Bike

The Acerbic Author Waxes Lyrical About the Joy of Two-Wheels

On the eve of his appearance at the Intelligence Squared cycling festival, celebrated novelist and cultural commentator Will Self speaks to NOWNESS of his love affair with the “inert lump of metal.” Having converted to the train-handy fold-up Brompton bicycle nine years ago, the Cock and Bull writer is evangelical about the nifty British machine, lauding it as the optimum way to orient oneself to a new town or city. The proud owner of several sets of wheels, Self rhapsodizes on the “beautiful Zen experience” of riding a fixed-gear, and the triumph of the human spirit embodied in the bike. “I cycle alone. I walk alone. It’s not really convenient to cycle with other people,” the notoriously sardonic author muses. “Do you want to just spend your time looking at someone else’s bum, or do you want to encourage someone else to just look at your bum?” Appearing at the debate alongside fellow writers Bella Bathurst and Geoff Dyer, Self is set to provoke the kind of gloriously freewheeling discussion that tends to follow him around.

For more information on the Intelligence Squared Cycling Festival at the Royal Geographical Society on Thursday 8th click here.

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Cheryl Dunn: Knockout Shot

The Street Photographer Captures Tyson, Trump and the Blood Soaked Glitz of 80s Boxing

NY filmmaker and photographer Cheryl Dunn reveals a trove of exclusive images from the glitzy heyday of 80s and 90s boxing, featuring heavyweight superstars Mike Tyson alongside legend Muhammad Ali and magnate-turned-TV-personality Donald Trump. Printed in the upcoming issue of graphic sports and culture periodical Victory Journal, Dunn’s photo narrative is accompanied by a vivid oral history, as she recalls the ruthless, high stakes world of boxing. Inspired by the phrase “for love or for money”, Victory Journal’s third issue is editor Christopher Isenberg’s swing at  “the way 60s Esquire would cover sports.” For him these 20-year-old images of fight fashion “are now different enough that you can see the contours of that era at large.” Gaining exclusive access via a club owner with a crush on her sister, Dunn was punching above her weight in the scrum of ringside photographers to shoot legends like Tyson, “Merciless” Ray Mercer, Al “Ice” Cole and Charles “The Natural” Murray. Driving a dilapidated champagne pink Cadillac to exhibition fights at Atlantic City casinos and Ramada Inn ballrooms, the artsy tomboy won the hearts of her battle weary subjects. Dunn also turned her cameras to Trump’s casino ladies and the homespun bling of ring card girls. Here she talks about the guts and glory of it all.  

What’s the biggest difference between how boxing was presented and consumed back then versus now?
At that time, the only way you could view a heavyweight fight was if you were physically there, which was very expensive. You could go to a place that had satellite TV, but it was not really accessible, which made it an exclusive spectacle. It attracted a real array of moneyed people and strange celebrities.

What were your first memories of boxing?
Boxing is very blue collar, you know. My dad and uncles were construction workers. Fights were big. That was his sport. Actually he was a Golden Gloves fighter when he was 19. I’d just hide behind his chair so my mother wouldn’t make me go to bed and try to stay up late and watch these fights with him.

What was it like being with the boxers while they were training?
For that portrait of Roy Jones Jr I went to his place in Pensacola. He had this big farm with a hundred pit bulls chained up and fighting cocks. The whole audio landscape there was completely unnerving. Barking dogs, roosters just going crazy. That’s where this guy lives, that’s where he trains. It’s complete aggression at all levels. He’s absorbing that to do what he does.

Were you battling for shots with other photographers?
What magazines want is a crystal clear shot of a knock out punch, that’s all. All these other guys are trying to get that shot. I was looking at the world with a much wider eye. I was turning around. I was shooting a social document of a scene, of a world.

Did the athletes carry luck charms or have routines before their fights?  
It’s very superstitious and completely ritualistic. Because you could be the best and have a bad night, it just takes one misstep. And if you don’t knock someone out your fate is at the hands of three judges, which can be completely abstract. It’s crooked, been that way forever.

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