Hitting the Mat

I really have a hard time describing it to people because if you don’t have a passion for it, you definitely won’t understand.
— Mark Laroche

Vivid photographs and audio interviews meld with ambient soundscapes and a looping compilation of b-roll type film clips—offering a diverse invitation to join the crowd, enter the ring, or even sneak behind-the-scenes of this high-energy, physical and performance-based brand of semi-pro wrestling. Bold personas and spectacular public moments are counterbalanced by quieter, more intimate ones—thanks in no small part to Emily McManamy’s abilities as a storyteller and the relationships she built over time to become a trusted, albeit temporary, insider.

As McManamy writes, “By day, the men and women of Slam All-Star Wrestling are carpenters, roofers and office workers, but by night they are a brotherhood of giants, heroes and villains. A misfit bunch clad in spandex, feather boas and studded leather, the members of this small professional wrestling community entertain screaming crowds once a month on a humble stage at the Moose Lodge in St. Albans, VT.”

Viewed through the lens of ethnographic inquiry every group forms its own distinctive community, each with its own set of values, specialized language, rituals, and norms of behavior. This is as true of a military unit as it is of a quilting group, a motorcycle “gang,” or a group of semi-pro wrestlers. For members of the group those things that bind them together may seem completely unremarkable or even be invisible. But for an outside observer who is approaching them with fresh eyes every aspect of their experience can be new and full of interest. It is an objective that is ably fulfilled by McManamy and her work documenting the Slam All-Star Wrestlers of Franklin County, Vermont.

Eight minutes of ambient soundscapes and a looping compilation of b-roll type film clips.

 
Watch that little four-year-old boy in the front row have his eyes light up like they never have before...
— Justin Lussier
Unless someone approaches me about professional wrestling, I don’t generally bring it up to people I don’t know.
— Mark Laroche
 
 

This exhibit is available to travel! Click on the Exhibit Specifications below to learn more about Hitting the Mat as a traveling exhibition.

 

Content Production / Photography, audio, video produced by multimedia journalist Emily McManamy of FreePressMedia.

Exhibit Production / Emily McManamy in collaboration with Henry Johnson and other Vermont Folklife Center staff.