William Luu – Australian Muay Thai Photographer of the Year

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Congratulations on your recent win, mate! Is this your first award of its kind?

Thanks Jarrod! I appreciate the support!  Since our last interview, I was nominated for the 2013 Australian Muay Thai photographer of the year and nominated for the 2013/2015 Awakening fight photographer of the year.

I won the 2014/2015 Australian Muay Thai photographer of the year, received 2 silver place in the 2014 Loupe awards, runner up for the 2014 Sport/Documentary AIPP State Awards awards and received a silver/silver distinction award for the 2015 Sport/Documentary AIPP State Awards. It’s been a fun journey!

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What do you think made you visible above your competition?

I’m constantly experimenting, learning and expanding my skill set to find new ways to provide exposure for the sport. I like to check out other photographer’s galleries to analyse their style and workflow and to draw inspiration from.

I see some photographers doing the same thing year after year and it can become quite stagnant. That’s what motivated me to pursue side projects like publishing two photo books, creating ‘Way of the Fighter’ and showing my behind-the-scenes process.

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Has your exposure increased in the time since we last spoke?

Yes, I think my exposure has increased nationally and internationally with the help of various media sites like Muay Thai Authority, Warriors of the Mongkon and Muay Thai Guy. It’s very humbling to be recognised by people from interstate and overseas because of my work.

Are you training yourself?

I’m currently training out of Nemesis Martial Arts under Denis Kelly (MMA/BJJ) and Phillip Lai (Muay Thai). Lately, it’s been a challenge to train consistently but I still make sure that I find time to stay sharp and not forget my roots.

Do you prefer photographing kickboxing, MMA or boxing? Do you have to approach each of them differently?

I approach each discipline differently.

In Muay Thai fights, I work with the rhythm of the fighters and analyse their techniques. In the opening rounds I examine the styles of both fighters and then [try to] predict the action in the later rounds.

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My understanding of timing in Muay Thai fights plays a big role in capturing the key shots, and that’s probably why it’s my favourite style to work with.

I think its fascinating to see how an aggressive bloody sport can also have a spiritual and traditional side to it. It often makes the fighter more in tune with their personality and that comes across in their fighting style.

I think an A-class, five round, pure Muay Thai fight is one of the most exciting things you can witness. Both fighters have the same set of skills and so they rely on reach, size, set ups, fakes, traps and mind games to get the advantage.

Kickboxing fights are usually fast-paced so I’m always on edge, in case the knockout comes out of nowhere. Boxing is the same concept, but the framing is from above the waist.

MMA fights can be quite unpredictable in the striking and ground game, so you have to be aware of what is happening at all times of the fight. It helps to learn the finer details of grappling to capture the pivotal moments that general fans miss.

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What’s the key to quality fightsports photography? There’s a lot out there, but very little is as good as yours…

For me, the key to quality fight photography is to be passionate and have a strong understanding of the sport. This helps in capturing the authenticity of the sport for the rest of the world to see.

There are often times that you may lose the passion and it will reflect in your work, so you must find a way to reignite it.

It’s important to know how to market yourself as a photographer and know where, when and how to upload your images. I make sure that I’m 100% satisfied with each image before uploading it.

This involves choosing the right composition that works across various social media sites and that my watermark is strategically placed without disrupting the action.

It’s a tough field to get into if your primary goal is to become famous. I got into this because I enjoy fight sports and design. I found that this was my perfect blend and I can provide a unique service to fight fans.

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How do you think mainstream interest in fightsports is developing?

 I think mainstream interest in fight sports is growing rapidly, especially with the UFC’s success in Australia over the last few years. During fight week at UFC 193, it seemed like a legion of fanboy/girl fans sprung up over night!

It’s good as it shows casual fans the amount of work that goes into a fight promotion and a fighter’s training camp. Fans have more exposure to what happens behind the scenes, instead of getting the old biased cage-fighting videos on TV.

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Have you had any exposure in mainstream media?

No mainstream exposure yet, apart from the multiple screen grabs that my mates sent me when they saw me on FOX during the UFC 193 fight week!

How was it to work on UFC 193? How are the UFC to work for? Did they contact you directly? Are they using your images? Did you work cageside?

I received my media credentials through Blitz Magazine. Unfortunately I wasn’t granted access to fight day but was at all the other media events. I was surprised by the amount of dedicated fans turning up at dawn for just a media event.

I had to disable my phone on many occasions because it would go crazy from all the notifications when my photos were shared and used by the fighters. It definitely helped my exposure.

Overall, it was a great experience to be working on an event of that scale and alongside other great photographers.

What other fights were memorable this year?

I’d like to mention that Toby Smith vs ‘John’ Wayne Parr on Powerplay Promotions was very memorable for me. I was little nervous to be the only photographer to be capturing the fight and kept saying to myself, ‘Don’t mess it up!’

Being at cage side with HEX Fight Series for the first caged mixed martial arts event in Victoria was a big one. It was my first time shooting through a cage and it was very exciting.

The main event between Tum Sityodtong and Sam Bark at Rebellion Muay Thai is also up there as one of the best fights of 2015.

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What’s with the cats?

What did you want to know about Coco? The cats belong to my girlfriend. They’re funny little creatures and can be fun to be around. Oddly enough, cats are one of the most common topics that I talk about with many fighters!

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