Cockfigthing In Puerto Rico

In 2012 I pitched a story to Vice about cockfighting in Puerto Rico that centered around the upcoming election, Puerto Rican sovereignty and how the US government receives federal tax dollars from legal cock fighting. My editor at Vice was into it and sent me and my friend Brendan Sullivan to Puerto Rico for a few days. Brendan was primarily a travel writer at the time and had a lot of contacts in Puerto Rico and fortunately speaks way better Spanish than I do so he was the perfect partner. We returned to with a ton of great stuff but my editor had mostly transitioned into working for the Vice HBO show and was dealing with some personal stuff in his life and stopped responding to emails. After months had passed I reached out to his boss and they offered to publish the story online at a rate of less than half of what we spent on the trip. I was heartbroken and we turned down the offer thinking we could find somewhere else to publish our story, but it never happened. 

Seven years later my friend, the Skid Row documentarian, Suitcase Joe reached out to me about being in a photography show he was doing. He wanted a bunch of my more edgy photos because the theme was “Outsiders” in photography. I think he wanted a mix of my stuff, but I told him I had all these cockfighitng photos that no one had ever seen and he was really into the idea. So on April 20th, in Los Angeles, I will be showing these cockfighing photos at House of Machines gallery. Suitcase Joe is an amazing photographer and there are a bunch of great artists in the show, so I am glad to be part of it. I am not actually going to be in LA for the show, but I really wish I could make it. 

So today, many, many years after I took these photos I wanted to show you all of these photos. Given that my gallery system is barely functional and there are nearly 500 photos in this edit, I doubt any of you will make a dent in looking at all of these photos, but I just needed to get them up and tell you a little about this amazing trip.

On the first day of our trip we went to Bayamon to a huge legal cockfighting arena called Gallera Las Palmas. We had heard stories of drug dealers shooting people there and some of the locals we met tried to freak us out about the place, but everyone was super nice and willing to talk to us. The actual cockfighting was pretty brutal and the smell of blood and chickenshit is something I will never forget. At one point we saw a guy who lost take his chicken and spin it around, breaking its neck and tossed it in a trashcan. 

From there we went into the center of the island to Coliseo Gallistico Don Alonso in Utuado. This was also a legal cockfighing arena, but very rural and a very different vibe than in the city. Once again everyone was super willing to talk to us and show off their prize birds. Because we came early in the season, the fights at Don Alonso weren’t to the death. The cocks were young and still training and wore little boxing gloves on their spurs called “botas”. The cocks can still peck at each other, but they don’t really hurt themselves and scoring is determined by how many hits the birds get, very much like boxing. No one gambles on these fights and the only money that exchanges hands are to the arena to enter the cocks in these training matches. 

At this point I should probably give you a little more info about cockfighting in general, I mean I probably should have done that two paragraphs ago, but here we are. Cockfighting is called “the gentleman’s game” because all bets are made during the matches from person to person. The arena just accepts entry fees and sells tickets and concessions, all the betting is person to person. The other thing we should talk about is the spurs. I think the standard thinking about cockfighting is that the tiny knives they strap to the legs of the birds are to make the fights more lethal, but that’s not the case. Spurs grow naturally on fighting cocks and they are used to kill any other cock that tries to go near their hens. These birds love to fight and they love to kill. It’s not like dog fighting where you have to train the dogs to attack. These birds are born for it. The attached spurs are actually just to make the fight fair. They don’t want people sharpening or adding poison to the spurs so if everyone files the spurs down and agrees to use the same plastic spurs the fights are more about the bird’s athleticism than their tiny daggers.

After watching a series of fights at Don Alonso we traveled deeper into the island to find an illegal or “clandestino” match. It was pouring rain and we were driving up these crazy winding roads in the mountains and there would just be wild animals around every turn. We ended up El Barrio la Pica, Jayuya, a town where most of the residents are either incarcerated in, or work at the prison there. While the fight was technically illegal, the mayor of the town actually let the organizers use a local basketball court for the fight as long as all the entry fees went to a charity. It was a pretty amazing scene with kids and dogs running around while the adults surrounded this tiny ring cheering on the young bota wearing cocks.

On our final day on the Island we went to a farm where they breed fighting cocks. The owner of the farm put a baby chick in Brendan’s hands and told us that he was “born to kill”. Given their nature is to fight, most of the training involves high perches where the cocks have to jump up to reach. Training them to jump is the biggest part of the training because they need to be able to out jump the other bird and land spurs first on their opponent. They also keep older cocks and there are two reasons for this, the first is that it keeps the birds agitated knowing that there is a threat around, but they also make for good sparring partners. They will but botas on the birds and tape their beaks shut and let them battle so that the young birds learn to fight against a much tougher opponent without getting hurt.

Cockfighing is honeslty a beautiful sport. The birds look so incredible while fighting and the sportsmanship around the betting is admirable. That being said, the death of the cocks seem completely needless. Male chicks are inedible killed anyway, but I am not sure our continental sensibility would allow cockfighing to thrive here, if it was somehow made illegal again. But I could see a lot more people coming around to it if they always fought with botas. But the brutality of a cockfight to the death is something I have no interest in seeing ever again. Even the guides we hired as translators/ security were revolted by the fights. They hated the sport and thought that even though it was a part of their culture they had no interest in having anything to do with it. 

Anyway, I hope you guys take a look at this gallery even though it’s over 450 images. I am really proud of this stuff and I hope someone actually looks at it. Plus if you make it to the end there are a bunch of adorable chicks. And if you are in LA, please check out the show on Saturday! There are some 35mm images from the trip that are in this show that aren’t in the gallery. 

Any money I make selling this work will be donated to Habitat for Humanity in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico isn’t close to rebuilt after Hurricane Maria and needs more help. Jayuya was badly damaged and in great need because of the same small roads we drove up making it much harder to get them the help they needed. You can donate to Habitat for Humanity PR here. 

Lastly, as you might expect there are some dead and bloody birds in this gallery, so if you are sensitive to any of that you probably don’t want to go through the photos, but then again if that’s the case you probably haven’t even read this far down so I guess we probably don’t need the warning.

Now click here to see the photos from our trip to Puerto Rico to document cockfighitng way back in 2012.

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico 

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico

Cockfighting In Puerto Rico

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Heidi V

I don’t use lights very often in my photography. Studio lighting is pretty boring to me. I get it, my work suffers because of it. Sometimes I am using just completely garbage light to get shots that I could set up in 10 minutes with lighting or even something as simple as a little bounce light would be enough, but it’s just not for me. I am looking for the spontaneous moments and it’s a lot harder to capture real life when you have a bunch of gear set up. Or maybe I am just lazy, I’m not sure.

That being said, I do occasionally use lights. I needed lights to shoot a bunch of puppies and celebrities very quickly for Fox Searchlight last year and I ended up putting a cheap LED lighting kit into the budget because my real light setup is so unnecessarily huge and honestly I never want to deal with it. I wanted to practice with it before the shoot and luckily Heidi V was in town.

I photographed Heidi V at AVN or some other adult convention years ago. She’s an Australian cam girl and I just remembered her from a random shot of her at the convention. I didn’t talk to her or anything, but I sort of knew who she was. Meanwhile, my friend was in town and she told me that I should come get food with her and her cam girl friend Heidi. Turns out it was the same girl that I had photographed way back when. We got some food and I showed em around the city a bit and then we talked about taking some photos. I ran home to get my lights so I could practice with em and headed over to the Air BNB that Heidi had rented.

The only problem was that I didn’t have a bag for my lights since I had just bought them. I just grabbed one light and one stand and headed out the door. If you know anything about lighting you know that you really need a second light to get rid of the harsh shadow caused by the first light, but my hatred of carrying gear struck again and I figured I could wing it. That was stupid.

So since I hate doing studio photography, and since I only used one light for some reason I didn’t even bother looking at these photos for a full as year. Still, as I was looking at my list of photo shoots I have yet to publish, this one kept jumping out at me because it’s now the oldest shoot I haven’t put up. 

So last night I finally sucked it up and went through these photos. Fortunately Hedi is adorable enough and we took enough photos that we ended up getting a bunch of stuff worth looking at. We also shot a second mini shoot that ended up on Girls of DBB a long as time ago. And there a few photos of her butt from this shoot that are exclusive to Girls of DBB too. So like, if you wanna see her butt you gotta pay up, or just google her or something. 

Lastly, I just wanted to shout out Hedi cause she rules. Back in January I got to Vegas for the AVN Awards hours before my girlfriend did and she’s the one who booked our hotel room so I had no way of checking in until she got to town. I started Tweeting at people and Hedi told me I could leave my stuff in her room and even trusted me to have a key so I could grab my stuff when I needed it. I really appreciated it, plus we took some random photos with her friend Kristie Bish, so that was cool. Thanks Heidi!

Okay, now click here to see all the poorly lit nudes of the adorable Heidi V!

Heidi V

Heidi V

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Hey, I Have A Portfolio Now

For several years I have been posting these throwback posts with the best of whatever year as I slowly went through my archives in order to organize every single photo I have ever taken. I finished that a few months ago and and started working on my first photo portfolio since 2009. Seriously look at this thing… Snooki is on it. I have never really needed a portfolio, but I also have missed out on some jobs over the years because I send people to this site or my Instagram and there’a ton of mediocre nudes and that’s not exactly ideal as far as getting corporate work. So I needed something with less nudity, and more commercial work and here we are.

After months of working on this thing I finally have a rough draft to show you guys. It’s not finished by any means, I haven’t shown it to anyone yet so I want to get some feedback. I also want to add a tear sheet section and some more 35mm stuff (although I do have a massively out of date 35mm portfolio). I still can’t write a bio for the life of me and the photo of me is a year and a half old and I don’t really like what I look like it in, but it’s the only vaguely professional looking photo I have since I grew out my hair (Thanks Chris King!) I also am thinking about hiring a retoucher to clean the shit up. I hate photoshop and I don’t really want my work to be photoshopped, but I also like getting paid so maybe cleaning some stuff up wouldn’t hurt… We shall see.

I might clean up my Instagram too. My Instagram is 70% random iPhone shots from photoshoots and it’s probably not a great way of looking at my work, but I have to assume most people are checking out my work on Instagram at this point. Then again I always tell myself I am going to do this and then I post some photo I like and it gets 40 likes and I just go back to posting random iPhone shots of girls. This is how social media is breaking my brain. I guess we will see how it goes. But don’t worry, I am not going to stop taking sexy photos any time soon, I just need to make more of an effort to show off my other work.

Okay, enough of this hemming and hawing about the future of my photography career. It’s time to go look at my portfolio. Let me know what you guys think. Leave a comment below or reach out via email or social media or something. Thanks a bunch for the feedback.

Now click here to see my new portfolio!

Jeff Goldblum

Crowd Surfing To Slayer

Kentucky Derby

Childish Gambino

Coathangers Get Tattooed By Oliver Peck

Miley Cyrus



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