professional wrestlers with text Rough Business Feature Article on photographer Brian Howell



"Rough Business" - The Wrestlers Series



Brian Howell is a sleuth of a photographer using his camera, his social justice heart and his sense for dramatic narratives to puzzle out, piece by piece, how society is harming itself often without realising how much damage is being done. In discussing his Wrestlers series, Howell conveyed both fascination and concern for the bloody psycho-drama that is pro-am wrestling, where low paid performers are brutalized, and glorified, all for commercial entertainment. Howell is very thoughtful about what he wants to achieve with his fine art photography work and seeks to use this platform to stir awareness about the truth of the world..

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 Howell shows the scene’s seduction (his Gorgeous George performer, the patriotic lady with her come-hither charm) but also its brutality. Blood stains many of these photographs. And real blood at that. It bruises the broken prop chairs, masks the battered face of a performer and races through the braying calls of the crowd.  No one in the audience seems to mind the blood and pain; they encourage it. Among other wounds, wrestlers commonly endure serious head trauma, bone fractures and complications due to steroid and prescription drug abuse. It’s a rough business in a rough time. ” 

Barry Dumka 



The Wrestlers Series

Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling is a minor league version of professional wrestling. Unlike the big league wrestlemanias which play out with rockstar theatrics in modern venues, the ECCW bumps along like a gaudy carnival on a circuit of small town community centers and suburban Legion halls throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The league’s main gig was at the Eagles’ Hall in New Westminster, B.C., a grand old vaudeville theatre that – like the town itself – had hollowed out over the years and gone down-market. The performers were mostly local bluecollar workers – delivery guys and tradesmen by day –  happy for some extra cash and dreaming of hype and glory. They are hard-core journeymen who can bear the punishment show after show. They get stapled in the face, slammed with metal chairs, thrown hard to the ground, spat on and verbally abused. Many performers earn less than $50 per show.

Brian Howell’s Wrestlers series catches the hard edge of this socially-coded scene as much as its theatricality. In Howell’s photographs everyone’s a performer. Howell has read Barthes and references his notion of wrestilng as a “spectacle” where the audience is “attuned” to the action and the entertainment a pantomime of class values. These are greased-up morality plays told with all the stylized art of a hockey brawl.

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