Todd Antony chronicles Bolivia’s Flying Cholitas

“Each year I try to undertake one to two personal projects to keep myself fresh from a creative standpoint,” says commercial photographer Todd Antony. Often these projects highlight a subcultural group he finds intriguing, e.g. his recent series on Bolivia’s Flying Cholitas, a group of women wrestlers who wear traditional dress while engaging in their sport. The Cholitas first began wrestling in the early 2000s, says Antony, partly for recreation and partly as a way for women who’d suffered domestic abuse to draw strength.

Antony collaborated with local producer Esteban Barriga Prado to arrange for the photo sessions, which took place in El Alto, a plateau village 1,600 feet above La Paz, whose brick homes seem to defy physics by cascading down a cliff’s face, Antony explains. The 13,615 altitude was his biggest foe—thin air made it difficult to lift equipment let alone think at times, he says. But thanks to the Cholitas, Prado, and his own meticulous planning and lighting techniques, he was able to create exciting photographs with compelling backdrops.

“There is such a saturation of images being produced in the world at the moment that whatever you’re going to shoot and put out into the world needs to have some sort of visual impact that separates it from what is around it.”   

Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer.