While he’s photographed the NHL and NFL, current HBO and ESPN photographer Ed Mulholland’s true passion is combat sports.
Having started out as a boxing photographer on a lark 10 years ago when he sent in fan pictures to FightNews.com, Mulholland quickly became one of the most in-demand and well-respected photographers in the business.
Soon thereafter, he was sent on his first MMA assignment at UFC 41, where he learned that while there are many similarities between boxing and MMA, they’re quite different to shoot.
“It’s a very different shoot photography-wise,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “In boxing you’re shooting from the waist-up, because that’s where all the action happens. MMA is a bit different. You have the cage in front of you that you have to shoot through – which is a big problem at times – and you have kicks and submissions, so it’s a lot of different angles and very different.”
Also different is how Mulholland feels MMA has approached the fight game, as a whole experience rather than as an individual fight with a negligible undercard.
“The big thing that MMA does – and obviously the UFC does – is that you’re not just going to see a fight, you’re going to an event,” he said. “I think they do an event better than anyone else. There’s a feeling there, a buzz, from bout one to the main event that boxing doesn’t has. They produce an event on another level from boxing.”
Despite having their differences in approach, Mulholland feels equally passionate about both boxing and MMA and feels there’s nothing like them in the sporting world.
“I think it’s the most dynamic in sports you can make, is that one-on-one type action,” he said.
Aside from the NHL Finals in 2010, where he got to go on-ice to photograph the Chicago Blackhawks’ celebratory moments, Mulholland recalled one of those moments where the energy of the moment almost overtakes you.
“When Cain Velasquez beat Brock Lesnar, I was cage side and shot that – and the crowd, that fight – was crazy,” he said. “The volume in the building made the hair on your arms stand up as you’re shooting and you’re trying to stay calm and just get the photo, the shot you need.
“You have to remain professional and do your job, but yeah, it gets churning inside, you feel it, it’s definitely there.”
Not only has Mulholland’s work garnished plenty of attention and praise from his peers, but fighters such as Mac Danzig and Bernard Hopkins have admitted their adoration for his work.
“You always hear feedback from the people you’re working with, and sometimes you think the only people who pay attention to the photos are the editors and other photographers, so it’s nice when someone outside that group takes notice – especially a world-class athlete – and they take time to shoot you a message or stop and tell you they loved it,” he said.
“The recognition is nice to hear and definitely makes it more worthwhile.”
As for Mulholland’s advice for someone wanting to get into sports photography, a willingness to learn is a must.
“Study all you can about sports photography and talk to sports photographers,” he said. “I did it when I started out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of people. I still assist other photographers because I’m sure I’ll learn something from it. It’s definitely a way to start out.
“I use assistants all the time with my HBO events and am starting to use them with the UFC stuff to get stuff out quicker. I’ll generally look for a young photographer who is looking to start out and I’ll post ads and try to get kids like that who want to learn. You’re not shooting, but you’re definitely learning and making an impression on the photographers you’re helping, and that will open doors later on.”
While his journey from fan to one of the industry’s premier photographers may not have been the most textbook, Mulholland is enjoying the fruits of his labor and is always willing to share his knowledge of the business with those who appreciate his art.
“The easiest way to reach me is my website, EdMulholland.com,” he closed out. “I have a blog on there that I have a lot of fun with and document my travels and behind-the-scenes look of what goes on with fighters and stuff like that. All my contact info is on there, even if a fan or another photographer wants to ask questions, I’m easily accessible and I try to answer everything.
“There’s a lot of good photographers who shoot UFC and I hope a lot of fans check them out and get interested. That’s why we do it. Obviously, it’s work and we get a paycheck for it, but it’s nice to see fans enjoy our work. Hopefully they enjoy it as much as we get to do it.”