Sumo wrestling, like many Japanese art forms, is steeped heavily in tradition. From a young age, boys come in with their bellies already filled out, wrap themselves in the mawashi loincloth, and learn the techniques that will help propel them to success in their nations most popular sport.
These early beginnings in the sport are not often showcased in the West, yet Daniel Ali has turned his focus to this incredibly fruitful subject matter. He has approached the subject in ways that demonstrate both the incredible structure that the lives of these young boys must be defined by, but also the passion and intensity with which they dedicate themselves to a sport that dates back further than two millennia.
There seem to be two sides to Ali’s series. The first, a more formal and stylized approach that incorporates a generic and standardized form of portraiture, is quite expected, yet the second type of images, a less structured series of images, acts as a wonderful depiction of these young men and the lifestyles they now lead as part of this small school. While the act of sumo wrestling is quite an intense one, the images that Ali has captured are of a much more gentle and reserved, as if replicating the honour and respect that is established within the nature of these young boys on their journey to becoming sumo’s.
You can see more of Ali's work on this website.
— James Brown