If you took the idea of Bruce Gilden photographing fight clubs in NYC and put them into the body of a man not as vertically endowed, you’d have the work of Steven Ferdman. Born and raised here in NYC, Steve has been granted the initiation rights to photograph Rumble in the Bronx, fight clubs, and underground boxing over the years. Much of it was in the Bronx — and he’s finally putting it together in a photo book that deserves to be held and adored instead of casually browsed by in a Reddit post. Steve’s work is too good for the algorithms — and the story he’s telling in All Callouts is Mandatory is worth the hours that you’ll put into staring at each photo.
All images of the book, All Callouts is Mandatory by Steven Ferdman, were shot by Chris Gampat. If you’re interested in the book, be sure to visit the website and sign up to see when it will be available for purchase.
Editorial Disclaimer: The Phoblographer saw a beta production version of this book. And the images we shot might not reflect the final version. Chris Gampat provided editorial guidance on how the final book should look. The Phoblographer is not receiving any compensation for the promotion of this book.
All Callouts is Mandatory: A Book That Grips You
Open up All Callouts is Mandatory and you’ll see a lot of careful layout and thought. The first main image within the book is split down the center of the page. I hate that, but Steve tells me it’s the best way to get people to realize we’re going into a larger story. Luckily, images being split down the middle is a rarity — though some negative space could be added to give a bit more separation.
All Callouts is Mandatory goes into detail, telling a story within a timeline starting in the late 2010s, spanning through the COVID era, and into more recent times. There are photos of many important people within the community, along with big-name rappers and powerful characters playing big roles in the story. Steve also carefully keeps those characters as important elements within the frames. This is what good photojournalism does.
An Inside Look
Steve’s book has various sections with cover shots, establishing shots, filler, detail, and closing shots. The cover shots are often hidden throughout the sections but immediately grab your eyes for various reasons. Some show brutal moments, while others put the insanity of the fights front and center. The establishing shots cover various places, such as yachts on the East River, basements in the Bronx, rooftops, bodegas, etc. Steve makes it feel like each section is a chapter — complete with things like the cops breaking up the events and the commercialization of the whole thing.
If you’re already a fan of photo books, then you’ll love the fact that Steve used similar luster paper to many of your favorites out there. In fact, the paper is comparable to a book put out by Mark Seliger. All Callouts is Mandatory has just enough sheen to look fantastic with diffused window lighting while you enjoy your hobby and his art in a space where you can contemplate the photos.
Originally, he was afraid that it would come out as a black-and-white photo book. But there’s plenty of color mixed in there too. And most importantly, there’s a lot to look at. I even enjoyed looking at the images with a loupe when I could.
All Callouts is Mandatory currently has a sign-up list for anyone interested in exploring the deeper side of this culture from someone who’s spent years photographing it. We’re giving this book four out of five stars.