Bismarck wet plate photographer's portrait of boxing legend headed to Smithsonian

Published: Oct. 21, 2016 at 5:25 PM CDT
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A Bismarck artist's portrait of boxing great Evander Holyfield is heading to Washington D.C., and it could be displayed next to some of the most famous pieces of American art.

The piece didn't come from a typical photoshoot.

Artist Shane Balkowitsch has had many of his glass plate portraits displayed at the North Dakota Heritage Center, but the Smithsonian would be a first for him.

This isn't an ordinary piece of art, and it's not going to any ordinary art museum. It's a glass plate portrait of boxer Evander Holyfield going to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

"They don't have a portrait of Evander yet, so to use my portrait as the first, it's rather amazing. And it's almost as if we started this journey together here - two strangers - and we're going to the Smithsonian together," says Balkowitsch.

Glass plate images are much more involved than other types of photography. The process requires exposing the light directly onto a glass plate and using chemicals and liquid silver to capture the image.

There are other intricacies to the art as well.

Shane has his subjects use a head brace so he their head does not move for the 10 to 12 seconds of exposure. They also can't blink.

Holyfield posed for the piece last February. It was immediately apparent it would be a special day for Balkowitsch's apprentice, Greg Frank.

"Just to see him in person, he was intimidating, but at the same time so well-mannered. Like he was so calm and ready to sit down and do his thing," says Frank.

Balkowitsch was cautious when asked

The Champ

to pose.

"It was kind of daunting to ask the four-time heavy weight champion of the world to take his shirt off for a portrait. I had this idea of him doing this, you know, he's a pugilist - he's a fighter. That's who he is," says Balkowitsch.

Balkowitsch thinks the image is a knockout, but it will be up to the public to render a decision on this piece of art.

The Smithsonian does not comment on pieces it is reviewing but said it could be a full year or more before the piece is on display, if it's accepted.