Throwdown at the Space!


When Laila Ali took the podium at the Space yesterday with her favorite photographer Mikki Willis, many of us were already expecting a brazen and strong voice from the reigning champion of women's middleweight boxing and daughter of the most famous boxer ever - Muhammad Ali.


Without a doubt Laila Ali lived up to the hype.


Laila was a powerful presence.


Mikki quizzed her on her boxing career and ran a slideshow of his work including some iconic portraits of her.

What we didn't expect was for Ali to be called out by a female audience member, amateur boxer Miss Tami, and challenged to a match to defend her undefeated title. During the Q & A following the lecture, Miss Tami approached the podium and faced Ali in a boxing stare down, "calling her out in front of everyone."

Laila surprised everyone by calling Miss Tami up to compare builds, reach, and hand-sizes. The audience was thrilled even as Staff pondered whether or not the situation was going to require a call to security.

It was clear, even before a smile broke free from them both, that the fearless mother, wife and fighter Laila Ali had no need for any guard or security.


Although Miss Tami or shall we call her Miss T. didn't get Ali to agree to a bout in the ring, her encounter might just develop into a more amiable relationship with one of the most inspirational female boxers today.


That Mikki Willis was personally selected by Laila Ali to discuss her life and career in front of an audience at the Space came as no surprise.

Their understanding of social responsibility and commitment to improving the lives of others is a common thread demonstrated in their work and emerged as the focus of the lecture.


The bulk of Mikki's questions turned the spotlight on Ali and were centered on her experiences and ideals rather than the intricacies of each photograph he captured of her,


but the discussion between the two friends still embodied the framework of Sports photography, the essential moments and people of sports history as captured by the photographer.

You tell us: How would you define Sports Photography?

(All photos © Unique for the Space)

Rutherford and Mendoza step up to the plate!

One thing that we love about the lectures for the SPORT exhibit has been the wonderful assistance provided by the Women Sports Foundation, who helped us bring some incredible athletes to share the podium with photographers. They introduced us to Aimee Mullins who came to speak with Howard Schatz, and Laila Ali who spoke with Mikki Willis.

Last night was another great pairing - this one with a female athlete AND a female photographer - the lovely lenslady Marla Rutheford and the bubbly Olympic medalist Jessica Mendoza.

From the way these two ladies played off of each other and cracked each other up you would think you were a fly on the wall at a fun sleepover, not in the room with innovating industry leaders.



For all the laughter and fun the two were very serious in their discussion of their experiences and the not so charming realities about making it in the industry of sports photography.

Marla spoke to the challenges she has faced in developing a trust relationship with her subjects, resorting to charm, intellect, a lot of humor and even a little fibbing so they would feel comfortable posing for artistic semi-nudes.

Jessica discussed the wake-up call moment she had when one of the first images of her in circulation was digitally enhanced by the publishers, causing her to question whether or not her appearance should play such a central role in the coverage of athletics.

They both shared captivating stories about these and other turning points in their extraordinary careers.

...and try as they might they could not stop cracking each other up!

At the end of the day we were just thrilled to be in the presence of such positive, accomplished and inspiring ladies.

(All photos © Unique for the Space)