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.