In “Rex,” a monograph by Zackary Canepari published by Contrasto Books, the setting is Flint, Mich. — a town usually thought of in terms of poverty and crime. At the center of this story are two sisters. Claressa Shields is older than Briana by 18 months. Like most people in Flint, the two girls grew up tough. Their dad was in jail for the first half of their lives. Their mother battles substance abuse. In a sad sense, it’s a typical Flint upbringing. Except for one difference: When she was 11, Claressa went to the local boxing gym and started training. Ten years later, she is considered by many to be the best female boxer in the world. “Rex” is about these two sisters.
For most people, being from Flint is like being in quicksand. Generational poverty has taken its toll. There are no jobs. There are no resources. There are no easy solutions. There is no easy way out. Claressa is the exception; Briana is the rule. And while on paper Claressa is the golden child and Briana is the troubled child, it’s more complicated than that. In another town, this might be a different story. But they’re not in another town. (
Description adapted from Contrasto Books.)
Zackary Canepari is a photographer and independent filmmaker. He is the co-director of “T-Rex,” a feature documentary (released on PBS and Netflix) about 17-year-old Claressa and her epic journey from Flint to the 2012 Olympics. In 2017, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation awarded him a fellowship to continue working on the “Flint Is a Place” project (including the Claressa Shields story). Canepari and the “Rex” project also received the following awards and recognition in 2017: POY (Pictures of the Year) Best Photography Book, POY First Multimedia Photographer of the Year, World Press Photo 2017 Digital Storytelling Contest, and PDN Photo Annual 2017 in the video/multimedia category.
“ Rex” by Zack Canepari is published by Contrasto Books. A book party and talk about “Rex” will take place Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Half King Photo Series venue in New York.
Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa “T-Rex” Shields warm up before fighting and eventually winning in the Gold Medal match at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada, July 25, 2015. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa “T-Rex” Shields on the big screen after winning the Gold Medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, 20, stops along the highway somewhere in Kansas, June 2015. She is driving from her hometown of Flint, MIch., to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she is moving. Its the first time she has ever lived outside of Flint. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Briana, 18, is the younger sister of Olympic Boxer Claressa âT-Rexâ Shields. Claressa and Briana are very close but Briana never found an outlet like boxing. While Claressa trains for her second Olympic Gold medal, Briana has dropped out of school and is raising her 2 year-old boy Fatdaddy. His real name is Bradford but no one calls him that. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Briana,18, is the younger sister of Olympic Boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields. In this photo taken in the summer of 2015, Briana is walking from the bus stop to the Job Corp center in North Flint, to try to enroll in the program. She and her son Fatdaddy (his real name is Bradford but no one calls him that) are living in an apartment together but she is looking to find a way to earn a living and move somewhere better. As of November 2017, she never attended the Job Corp program. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa Shields, 20, takes a goodbye selfie with her young sister Briana, 18. Claressa is moving from her hometown to Colorado, the first time she has ever lived outside of Flint, Mich., June 2015. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa Shields, 20, says goodbye to her boyfriend Adrell Holmes in his family home in Flint, Mich. , June 2015. The Olympic Gold Medalist is moving away from her hometown for Colorado for the first time in her life, leaving behind her friends and family.
(Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Briana Shields (in the back),18, holds her little boy Fatdaddy (real name Bradford) in her bedroom in The Villa, a housing complex in North Flint. Briana’s cousin Coco and Coco’s little girl Lani are also pictured. Briana and Fatdaddy only lived there for about 6 months before they had to move back in with Briana’s mom. At the time this photo was taken, Fatdaddy’s father was in prison. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Dusable Lewis, 17, holds his newborn child Dusable Jr. at Hurley’s Hospital in Flint, Mich. This is Lewis’ second child and despite being born premature, Junior is healthy. Lewis, who everyone calls Peanut, is the little brother of Claressa and Briana Shields. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Briana,18, sleeps in her apartment in The Villa, an apartment complex in North Flint. Briana is the younger sister of Olympic Boxer Claressa âT-Rexâ Shields. Claressa and Briana are very close but Briana never found an outlet like boxing. While Claressa trains for her second Olympic Gold medal, Briana has dropped out of school and is raising her 2 year-old boy Fatdaddy. His real name is Bradford but no one calls him that. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Olympic Gold Medal Boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields (R) and her sister Brianna (17 years old) play fight in a supermarket parking lot in Flint, Michigan. May 2014. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa “T-Rex” Shields waits to be picked up by her boyfriend before her senior prom in Flint, Michigan. This is nearly a year after winning the Olympic Gold Medal in Women’s Boxing at the 2012 Summer Games in London. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa “T-Rex” Shields fights against former Canadian Champion Mary Spencer at a showfight in Lansing, Mich., Feb. 2013. This is 6 months after she won the Gold Medal in Woman’s Boxing at the 2012 Olympics in London. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa chats with friends including her sparring partner Rell, outside a bowling alley in Flint, Mich. Rell and Claressa had a crush on each other for years and were dating behind the back of her coach. Eventually it led to the end of her working with Coach Jason. Rell and Ressa were still dating in 2015, when this photo was captioned. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
For the month after she won the Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympic Games, an electronic billboard in Flint, Michigan announced its support for Claressa âT-Rexâ Shields, August 2012. Shields is a true hero in Flint and even three years after she won her historic medal, there are new murals and signs up with her name on it all over the city. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Claressa Shields has red, white and blue painted on her finger nails a month before she gets ready to go to the Olympic Games in London. The flags turned out more French than American but Claressa didn’t mind. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
Olympic Gold Medal Boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields finishes having her hair done in the basement studio of Miss Paula, a women that she once lived with in Flint. Claressa has lived all over Flint, with a grip of different people but she is now fairly settled in with her coach Jason Crutchfield. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)
The iconic Vehicle City sign hangs over the entrance to Downtown Flint. The city doesn’t make vehicles any more but the pride of being the birthplace of General Motors still permeates amongst the residents. (Photograph by Zackary Canepari)