To be or not to be: a book in the making? Leon Rose’s ‘Live, Train, Fight Like Thai’

Leon Rose Live Train Fight like Thai cover image

All stops are out for Auckland professional photographer Leon Rose who decided crowd funding was the way to go to get his first book of personal work published. He has until 7 January to raise the $NZ25,000 to cover the costs for his book, Live, Train, Fight Like Thai, documenting aspects of the Thai Kickboxing sport in New Zealand. It is a photo essay that grew and has occupied him for 10 years, half of his professional life. Muay Thai kickboxing is not well known in sports crazy New Zealand and that fact has been a major motivation for making him extend his essay. But it was not until he heard a motivational speech by Geoff Blackwell, the publisher of the popular M.I.L.K. – (Moments of Inspiration, Laughter and Kinship) photo books, that Rose decided it was time for him to approach PledgeMe.com to get sufficient funds to publish with PQ Blackwell Publishing.

At the end of November 2014 he had around one fifth of the funds pledged for his short-run book, which starting at $85 a copy for the basic version, heats up to $400 for his “Epic Edition”.  He is offering a signed print of the purchaser’s choice for the higher priced versions outlined on his PledgeMe page. Pledges are only deducted from supporter’s bankcards if the goal is reached by 7 January 2015, otherwise the project will not go ahead, or at least, not by this method.

Leon rose 20040212-ASBStadium0014

“Muay Thai is a most skilful art and is as beautiful as it is brutal”, Leon writes. “I learnt that to win in this sport involves the most incredible amount of dedication and training…. The dedication of these fighters who start their fight careers at very early ages, some as early as eight years old, is truly astonishing and is something I have a huge amount of respect for.”

Leon Rose’s commitment has resulted in a significant photo essay, which seems reminiscent of Geoff Winningham’s great book, Friday Night at the Coliseum, on the Texas wrestling scene. Rose, however, did not have the benefit of knowing Winningham’s work, and at this point, I was surprised to learn that he hasn’t done a rough layout of his ideal book, but will be working with  Blackwell publishing to make the selection.

Asked what he would do if for any reason crowd funding didn’t work for him, he wasn’t sure. But he has stepped into the photobook ring now, and one way or another, I suspect, his book will be completed. In the process the world will get to know more about the nascent Thai kickboxing scene in far away New Zealand than could ever be imagined.

Leon’s introduction and the nature of the PledgeMe crowdfunding process as a potential model for others to follow can be seen at  https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/2808-live-train-fight-like-thai-book-project .

For photographers this is also reminder that if they care enough, they have the skills, and therefore the potential, to fulfil personal essays with lasting  historical value, outside of their commercial work, as Leon has done. And it is also a reminder that it has never been easier to buy a good book – and if you splash out, to start your own photo collection in the process.

John B Turner, Beijing

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