This story appears in the September 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Rumble in the Gym In Kinshasa a woman punched photojournalist Pascal Maitre in the forehead. It was an accident—he got too close to some young women who were boxing. Everyone laughed, a light moment during a tense assignment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kinshasa is rife with crime and poverty, but its people eagerly pursue the arts and athletics. This boxing club has ties to past glory too: The women train in the now dilapidated stadium where Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fought in 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle.” —Daniel Stone
Behind the Lens
Q: Kinshasa can be dangerous. How did you protect yourself?
A: The city is impressive and chaotic, but it’s not more dangerous than most big cities. Of course, you have to be with people who know their way around and who can vouch for you. I made sure the police and information ministry knew what I was doing, so that they could help me stay safe. If you come back several times, they start to know you and give you enough space to work.
Q: How did you get people to trust you?
A: It’s difficult, but it can be very simple. You have to explain to people exactly what you want and what kind of story you want to tell. When people realize you know your topic, usually you find someone who wants to help.
Q: Was it hard to take candid photos when your skin made you stand out?
A: During the three trips I made for the story, I never saw another white man in the street. I didn’t face any discrimination, but a white man shooting pictures makes it hard to be discreet. Because of that, I couldn’t stay somewhere too long, or people would start to wonder what I was doing. It required time and patience.