Nikon Ambassador Ray Demski photographs the brutal romance of Bukom's boxers

Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 21st March 2018 – The new photography project from Nikon European Ambassador Ray Demski explores the mystery surrounding Bukom, a small Ghanaian suburb that’s produced some of the world’s finest boxers. Equipped with the D850 and NIKKOR lenses, Ray aimed to get under the skin of this culture, capturing how the boxers train and develop – from local kids through to legends that enter the sport’s global arena.

Boxer Issah Inusa resting between sparring rounds during training at “Attoh Quarshie Boxing Gym” in Accra, Ghana, 2nd October, 2017.

Nikon D5 + AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED |1/800 s | f/2.8 | 70mm | ISO 6400 | © Ray Demski

From Left - Boxers Isaac Ekpo (of Nigeria) and Issah Inusa sparring during training at "Attoh Quarshie Boxing Gym" in Accra, Ghana, 2nd October, 2017.

Nikon D5 + AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED |1/800 s | f/2.8 | 40mm | ISO 6400 | © Ray Demski

Bukom is a small neighbourhood in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. Despite its limited size and resources, it has produced an exceptional number of world champion boxers. The sport dominates the community which has a long history of fighting – many cannot afford education, meaning career options often extend to fisherman, labourer or boxer. With upwards of 30 different boxing gyms in the community and huge ‘fame status’ associated with the sport – the moment someone becomes a champion boxer, they become a celebrity in Bukom.

Ray, an action and sports photographer who grew up boxing had always been drawn to Bukom: “I had heard about this neighbourhood a long time ago and there was such mystery surrounding it. How did somewhere so small and relatively isolated from the global boxing scene produce so many great fighters? I wanted to tell the story my way, to elevate these boxers to heroes, to do justice to how these athletes are seen by their local community and bring them the visibility they deserve.”

From Left - Boxing coach Osumanu Nii Amarh Brew of “Attoh Quarshie Boxing gym” and young boxer Barnor Wisdom pose for a portrait at the beach where boxers run and train early in the mornings in Accra, Ghana, 7th October, 2017.

Nikon D850 + AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED | 1/1600 s |. f/9 | 40mm | ISO 64| | © Ray Demski

From Right - Boxer Braimah Kamoko, aka "Bukom Banku" sparring with George Ashie aka "Red Tiger" at "Wadada Boxing Gym" in preparation for Kamoko's fight with Bastie Samir in Accra, Ghana, 4th October, 2017.

Nikon D5 + AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED | 1/320 s | f/1.8 | 24mm | ISO 5000 | © Ray Demski

Ray dedicated months to researching the project in advance, contacting local organizations at the heart of the boxing scene like Bukom Boxing News and sports writer Sammy Heywood Okine, whose support allowed him to hit the ground running in Bukom. What started as a sports photography shoot quickly became something more – a broader social project that saw Ray meeting over 40 locals a day. Ray ended up focusing on seven different gyms and the boxers who trained there.

During the project, he used the D850 and the D5 along with the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED, AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G EDAF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G and the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G.

Head boxing coach Charles Quartey leading training at “Charles Quartey Boxing Foundation” in Accra, Ghana, 9th October, 2017.
Nikon D850 + AF-S NIKKOR  24-70mm f/2.8G ED |1/125s | f/2.8 | 24mm | ISO 1600 | © Ray Demski

“I went to Ghana with plans for a sports action story and came away with something much deeper – a story of a small urban community that has produced, and will continue to produce, some of the best athletes in the world. This community is defined by their passion for the sport of boxing.”

Ray’s images focus on a number of individuals, including Charles Quartey – the Head Coach of a gym with no roof that, alongside a training space, serves as a home to several of the children who train there. Quartey also pays for their food and education. Other subjects include Bastie Samir, whose training regime includes sparring with four other boxers trying to hit him at the same time, Emmanuel Tagoe IBO lightweight world champion and Bukom Banku – a popular boxer and local personality who’s training sessions are accompanied by masses of cheering fans.

Demski concludes, "In terms of kit, it was my first project of this kind using the D850, which delivered the resolution and dynamic range I needed in a small and extremely fast body. The AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED was great for getting close to the action, while the AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED covered my needs from a portrait perspective. The AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED is so versatile - a great tool for action photographers.

Young boxer Hakeem Nii Nortey Lokko, during a pause in training at “Bronx Boxing Gym” in Accra, Ghana on October 4th, 2017.
Nikon D850 + AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED | 1/200 s | f/4 | 50mm | ISO 800 | © Ray Demski

“All this meant that I could capture the fighting spirit of Bukom in exactly the way I envisioned it. There were many emotional moments throughout, and I will be forever grateful to the Bukom community for welcoming me, and to Nikon for supporting this passion project of mine.”

You can see all the images here.

The Nikon European Ambassador Program

The Nikon European Ambassador Program consists of talented and influential visual artists, who use the industry's latest technologies and an awareness of social trends to represent the current age. Nikon challenged Ray to realise his dream photography project, based on his global recognition as an action and adventure photographer.

For more information about Ray’s project please visit his Special Project page.

About Ray

Based in Munich and represented by Upfront, Ray Demski is one of the most exciting action and adventure photographers working today. Growing up in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, Ray always loved the outdoors, a passion amplified by the fact that from the age of 14, he spent seven years sailing around the world on a 45-foot sailboat. It was during this time that Ray picked up his first camera and ignited his passion for documenting the diverse people and landscapes around him, while also developing his skills as an athlete. In 2007 (40 countries and nearly seven years later), his passion became a full-time career. Ray specialises in action and adventure photography, using his own athleticism to find new angles and points of view.

All images are © Ray Demski.