KICKPICS is a free website that I created several years ago that is devoted to the art of kicking. More specific, posed kicking photos with a partner. I tried taking action shots in the beginning but was wasting a lot of time and money on film and developing the photos. So I decided to stick with still shots and it just took off from there. On the site, you will see photos of posed kicks to an opponent's head, face, throat, stomach, knees, groin, etc. Any martial artists can send in their own photos or if they would like a photo shoot, I can do that, too.
It's such a cool story and I love telling it. I have always been a huge fan of the martial arts and as a kid, I think I watched every martial arts movie ever made. I could never get enough of watching them and was in total awe of the kicks. After high school, I finally enrolled myself into Yu's Tae Kwon Do (the late Chong Son Yu was my instructor) and I was in heaven. Finally, I got to be the one kicking! One day after training, a buddy of mine and I decided that we wanted to take photos of each other doing some kicks. So I grabbed our family Polaroid (I wonder how many young martial artists even know what a Polaroid camera is!) and we snapped some horrible photos. But they were ours and we were proud of them. Then shortly after that, we talked about setting up a small website featuring kicking photos. In October 2001, I set up a cheap 20.megsfree.com website and that's when KICKPICS officially started. Since our photos weren't all that great, I decided that I would scan some photos from my nearly two hundred martial arts magazines and books. So I scanned them and started posting them to this website. So that's how it all started. I had to close that website because it was such a small website and it kept shutting down. At that time, I got maybe twenty hits a month and I posted twenty photos. As the years went by, more and more people started finding out about the website and it got more and more popular. I started taking pics with my Polaroid then a regular 35mm camera and eventually got my first digital camera. It's funny--you can see the gradual progression of my photos from back then to now.
Prior to 2008, I was giving shoots for free. Yes, that's right--FREE. Things have changed financially in my own life so I can no longer afford to do it for free. I will start asking for donations for the shoots so I can keep the site running and use the money to help with travel expenses. Here is how my shoots work: You can take as many photos, in as many outfits and at as many locations as you'd like. I take traditional uniformed photos indoors in the dojo or outdoors in a park or wherever there is nice scenery. I also allow you to take street scene photos (self defense-type photos). I also add your name, style, location, and website address (or email address) to my website when I add your photos to it. So you get all the photos you want and get free advertising--for $50. You will get all of the photos emailed to them within a two to four weeks. For $100, I will make a CD of all the original, uncropped photos immediately after the shoot. Many martial artists are using the photos from our shoot on their website, printing photos, and even printing posters and the original photos print a lot better than the emailed version. Just remember what the site's theme is--posed kicking photos. So 90% of the photos we take will be for the website. Since I am there, I have no problems shooting some solo or weapons photos.
I have fronted most of the money for my website and keeping it going. I am computer illiterate so I have a local guy take care of the technical part of the site for me. I had a vision of what I wanted the site to look like and he put it all together. I just take the photos for the site while he does everything else. There is a monthly fee in addition to a "per photo" fee that I have to pay every month. I do have a PayPal link on my website that is used for donations. Over the past couple of years and within fifteen months, I lost my Mom, my Dad, and my Grandmother (my second Mom) and it took a huge emotional toll on me. I was out of work for almost six months and it really cut into any spending money. So I almost closed the site. I reached out to the website fans and many of them came through. Donations came in and I was able to keep the site going. For the most part, most of my photo shoots are taken while I am already on vacation. Prior to leaving for any vacation, I will contact local martial arts schools, tell them about the website, and offer a KICKPICS photo shoot. People have asked me if they could pay for my expenses, would I fly out to them for a shoot. The answer is ABSOLUTELY! I love doing this. I would just need advanced notice so I can adjust my work schedule. But sure I would.
No, I never had an interest in photography. I think of myself as an amateur photographer because I have absolutely no training in photography. I think I have a pretty good eye for photos but I wish I had more knowledge about photography and exactly what my camera can do.
I used to train in ITF Tae Kwon Do and I loved it. I got my 1st degree black belt and had to quit because of work, college, and no money. After that, I dabbled in Isshinryu Karate, Koei-Kan Karate, and Capoiera. I loved all of the arts but my heart was always with Tae Kwon Do and the kicks. I was in the arts for a total of six years or so.
I have had photo shoots in Michigan (my home state), Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, California, Maryland, Virginia, and the United Kingdom (London). In the United States, forty-seven of the fifty states have martial artists interested in a photo shoot. In total, I have a little over 500 martial artists in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK interested in a KICKPICS photo shoot. It's pretty crazy isn't it?
My favorite story is a bitter sweet story of one of KICKPICS favorites, Billy Hughes from Miami. Back in 2002, I emailed Billy and invited him to check out my site. Ever since then, we kept in contact and became really good friends. In 2003, I finally met him and we had our very first photo shoot. We met again later that year when he came to Michigan and we had another shoot. Billy went to an audition for a part in an action movie and he took one of our photos to his audition. When his interviewer asked for his headshot, he proudly showed his photo and their response was, "wow, that's a great photo." He ended up getting a call back and was in 2007's Miami Vice movie. I remember him calling me and thanking me up and down for the photo shoot. I kept reminding him that it was his talents that got him the part--I was just there to capture it on film. He was even offered personal training jobs and a couple other movie parts were in the works as well. Sadly, Billy unexpectedly passed away in May 2007. I emailed my site's database and the condolence emails just poured in. I ended up creating a blog on my MySpace page and started posting all of the emails right to it. I decided that I had to go to the funeral and pay my last respects to my buddy. I printed out a couple 8x10 photos that we took, put them in really nice black and chrome picture frames, and gave them to his mother at the funeral. I also printed out the blog and gave it to her as well. Her response was, "I had no idea..." and then she started crying. So that is my best success story. I had a photo session with Scott Palangi out of New York and a long-time friend of his, Steve Basche from Indiana, found him on my site. They lost contact with each other over the years and it was great that they could get in contact with each other again. I have also been told that a number of martial artists featured on my website have been offered modeling gigs and personal training positions as well. So it just goes to show--you just never, ever know who might see you or what might come about it.
The biggest accomplishment has been making some really great friends. There is no better feeling than getting a phone call or an email from someone that you photographed thanking you for a job well done. Since I have a digital camera, I can see the photos as I take them. When I show the kicker a photo that came out really well, the smile on their face is priceless. I also feel great by giving back to the martial arts community. It just makes my day when I receive an email from a martial artist who says they are inspired by the kickers that I feature on my website. I saved an email that I received from a man named "Peyton" who was is a huge martial arts fan and was recently diagnosed with MS. His email to me said, "What I have read in your FAQ has been a great encouragement.....remember, you may be one person in the world, but you may make the world of difference to someone....I will continue to stretch. Maybe one day, my kicks will be as high as yours." I have also received some nice recognition for my work, too. In 2006, I was inducted into London's first ever Martial Arts Hall of Fame (Dedication to the Martial Arts) and again in 2007. In January 2007 and 2008, I was inducted into Action Martial Arts Magazine's Hall of Fame (Special Merit) as well. My photos have also appeared in Budo International / BlackBelt UK and Inside Kung-Fu magazines. In November 2007, Tae Kwon Do Times did a six-page interview and photo story on the me and the KICKPICS site. In January 2008, Hollywood has called on KICKPICS, too. An agent in California stumbled across the website and saw the talents of the martial artists that I have featured on my site. They asked me if I could refer them a martial artist for a part in the new American Gladiators show. I sent out an email to my database and got responses from all over the world. I would be happier than a pig in "you know what" if someone I knew and photographed got the part! Never in a million years did I think all this would come out of such an innocent project. I am truly thankful and blessed.
The site is viewed all over the world and I average anywhere between 7-10,000 hits per month. And it's only gaining more and more steam. Since I do have a full-time job, I had to stop giving individual USERNAME and PASSWORDS because it was taking so much time. Now there is just one universal code and all you have to do is go to the site and register. You will get this code within 24-48 hours. At last count, I had around 7800 subscribers.
Yes, I'm a Mortgage Broker by day and I have been doing it for nine and a half years now and love it. At the end of 2007, I lost my job and was out of work for about a month and a half. So the financial situation I was referring to? That's what I'm talking about. I now work for Family Home Loans and I hope to get my feet back on the ground. I grew up in Lake Orion, Michigan and graduated from Lake Orion High School in 1987. From there, I took some Business Administration courses at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills and Walsh Business College in Troy. I am just a few courses from getting my Associates Degree and you think I would just bit the bullet and do it. But I have no desire to get back into the classroom. Not now anyways. We'll see!
Hands down, my all-time favorite kick to photograph is the basic sidekick to the face. It is the most picturesque photo. I really like this photo because it emphasizes the kicker's perfect form, flexibility, and strength. If you think about it, why do we train ourselves to stretch and kick high? To land a kick to your foes head or face! As long as I am doing this, every martial artist I photograph will always get a sidekick to the face photo. Interestingly enough, I created a poll on my website and asked which photos keep bringing fans back to the website. The top five photos were: (1) Sidekicks to the nose, (2) Groin Kicks, (3) Stomps to a downed opponent, (4) Kicks to the throat, and (5) Groin Grabs. To me, these results indicate that not only the high-kicking styles view the site but also the low-kicking styles such as Kenpo, Kung Fu, Wing Chun, etc.
I have many. I have have met some great martial artists and celebrities. The celebrities I have met and photographed have been Vincent Lyn, Loren Avedon, Keith Vitali, Gary Daniels, Taimak, and JD Rifkin. I would really like to meet Kickboxer stars Jean-Claude VanDamme and Daniel Bernhardt. My shoots with Peter Thomas from Long Beach, CA and Loren Avedon are samples of my favorites pics because of the scenery. We shot Peter's in Long Beach with the ocean and palm trees as the backdrop and I think we shot Loren's in Palos Verdes. It was on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Both were absolutely breath taking scenes. Then add two incredible kickers--the shoots were awesome. Check out the STACE's KICKPICS FAV's page for some of my all-time favorite shots.
I'm a one-man show. It's just me! As far as equipment, it's pretty basic. Like I said, I'm just an amateur photographer. No studio. No fancy camera. No fancy lights. No backgrounds. It's just me and my Canon PowerShot Pro1 digital camera with timer and my tripod. I also carry my uniforms with me just in case the "target" cancels. What I mean by "targets" is this. I always tell the martial artist that they can bring someone to the photo shoot to be their target. That can be challenging in itself because many want to be the butt kicker instead of the one getting the snot kicked out of them. In my six years of doing this, I have made a few observations. Most martial artists who want to take photos can't because (1) they don't have a decent camera, (2) they don't have a person willing to be their target, (3) they don't have a third person to take the photos, or (4) all of the above. This is how I can help. I have the equipment and will always offer myself as a target if they need one. I'm only 5'7" so I make for a pretty easy target, too.
Absolutely. Not only have I been doing something that I love, I have also made some lifetime friends. Billy Hughes was a perfect example of this. When I was going through my tough times after losing my loved ones, there were many, many people from my website offering their warm thoughts and prayers. Every single person I have photographed with will always be considered a friend. The martial arts community is a tight-knit community and I'm proud to be part of it.
I don't ever want the site to stop. As I said earlier, I have over 500 martial artists interested in a photo shoot. Financially, there is no way I can get to all of them. I would love to find a sponsor or a number of sponsors that could help me get to each and every one of them. I currently have a Sponsors page on my website and would be happy to add anyone who is interested in sponsoring the site or an individual shoot. I'm not an Accountant but I'm pretty sure the donations can be used as a tax write off. If I could, I would like to take a second to recognize and thank my current sponsors. Danny Zannelotti was a featured kicker on my website and owns ZPPS Martial Arts Supply. He gave a very generous cash donation to the website in addition to donating some uniforms. I wear his uniforms in most of my photo shoots and add his link and logo to each page features his uniforms. Karate Depot was kind enough to donate monies towards last year's Los Angeles trip. Shawn Kovacich from the Achieving Kicking Excellence series books also has made a generous donation to the website.
Besides making a monetary donation or purchasing a T-Shirt, tell every martial artist you know about the site. And if they're awesome kickers.....let's get them a shoot and in front of the world. Lastly, if I could ask EVERYONE a huge favor it would be to download the flier in the SPONSORS page. Then send it to every martial artist, martial arts school owners, and martial arts suppliers, magazines, or clothing line companies you know. You never know.......somebody might become the sponsor that I'm looking for or know someone that could sponsor a shoot in their state.