Efficiency – Mike Tyson

The third film in the Auerbach series is Efficiency, the only video in the series dedicated to an athlete, not an actor. The sports’ star in question is none other than Mike Tyson, whom Auerbach photographed in 2020 for Haute Living, a luxury bimonthly publication.

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Two great modern masculine archetypes of force and flow—the boxer and the jazzman—take pride of place in the American imaginary. Among the former, Tyson remains an undisputed titan: a heavyweight of heavyweights, with a life suitably bedecked in triumph, sacrifice and controversy. As with jazz, the Empyrean of boxing admits no easy heroes—nor does it want them. These are men the way gods dreamt them; men with terribilità.

Auerbach’s challenge here was in photographing someone who does not quite fit into a photograph. How does one translate the fullness of a lion at rest?

Tyson is designed for movement, although not in the same sense as Cumberbatch. A real locomotive power borne of utter physical prowess is burned into his stance. The man looking into the picture—not at the camera, but through it—is an unburnished statue, and though he is almost immobile, there is a seismic tension in his near-stillness, in his near-smile: that of someone who was once known as the most dangerous combatant to have stepped into the ring.

The paradoxical elements in the picture—the nondescript background, the angular edge of a car, the custom shirt made for him by the late Versace, stamped with Warhol prints beside a tattoo of Che Guevara—heighten the scene’s surreal, rarefied intensity. Though there is, as Auerbach observes, a gentleness to Tyson, it is tempered by a thoroughbred impatience that leaves the photographer with only one card up his sleeve: no time.

Auerbach has just a few shots to attempt a knockout—and he takes them.

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Next in this series

Timeless: Sharon Stone

Adaptation: Benedict Cumberbatch

Announcing Captured Moment: The Master’s Process