Katrina Arnold photographs New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling tournaments.

Babe Lincoln, Amelia Armheart, Ruth Hater Ginsburg : Ladies Who Arm Wrestle 

Babe Lincoln, Amelia Armheart, Ruth Hater Ginsburg : Ladies Who Arm Wrestle 

Behold
The Photo Blog
Dec. 3 2014 10:30 AM

Babe Lincoln, Amelia Armheart, Ruth Hater Ginsburg : Ladies Who Arm Wrestle 

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Foxy Fro Brown defeats Huevo Monstero.

Katrina Arnold

When Katrina Arnold photographed a ladies arm wrestling brawl in New Orleans a few years ago, she was instantly hooked. The raucous events, which are hosted by New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling, combine the performative, athletic elements of a WWE match with the communal, boozy aspects of a trivia night. It’s one of more than 25 chapters across the world under the umbrella of the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers

“They're such colorful events. You never know what's going to happen,” Arnold said. “I got addicted. I ended up joining the collective and taking pictures of my friends.”

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Lady Liberty and Hot Sauce arm wrestle surrounded by their entourage.

Katrina Arnold

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The Cosmic Crusher and Grandmaw Foots face off in the final match.

Katrina Arnold

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The agony and adulation at the Back Alley Birthday Bash Brawl.

Katrina Arnold

At NOLAW’s events, which are held a few times a year at bars, galleries, and other spaces across the city, eight arm wrestlers—each with their own costumed persona, theme song, and entourage—compete before hundreds of spectators. According to NOLAW, “rules are determined and managed by the referee, only to be manipulated and corrupted by celebrity judges, crowd hecklers, and dolla billz.”

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The events aren’t just fun and games. They’re also fundraisers, with all proceeds benefiting local groups supporting women and children. (The groups, in return, create the winner’s trophy and submit a member to wrestle in the tournament.)

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The band plays on as Trombone Short Arm and Make You Moan Lalone wrestle.

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Amelia Armhart and Funkenstein battle during the Inaugural Brawl.

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Margot TenenBOMB defeats the Wrangler during the Second NOLAW SuperBrawl.

Katrina Arnold

Photographing arm wrestling, Arnold said, is like photographing a concert: It involves shooting fast-moving subjects in low light, as well as avoiding getting in the way of audience members. Still, she said, NOLAW’s events are “a photographer’s dream.” Hilarious wrestler alter egos—Babe Lincoln, Amelia Armheart, Ruth Hater Ginsburg—come with equally outrageous costumes and stunts as they prepare to compete. Half-time acts include drag queens and burlesque dancers. Crowds are loud and enthusiastic. 

“We want to create a fun, safe atmosphere where we can show off these strong, empowered women doing something that allows them to act out however they want,” she said. “You can be sexy, strong funny—you create a character. The best part is seeing these expressions come out on stage. It's more about performance than the actual arm wrestling.”

The next NOLAW brawl is set for Dec. 12 at One Eyed Jacks. Arnold’s photographs will be on display in the exhibition, “Katrina Arnold: Wrists Up” at New Orleans’ Gradoux Gallery as part of PhotoNOLA from Dec. 4 through Dec. 7.

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Fema the Perpetrator and Slamrock O’Hagan arm wrestle.

Katrina Arnold

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Granny Grinder and Baby Brees get ready to wrestle.

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A wrestler pulled from the audience celebrates after defeating NOLAW's Angharad.

Katrina Arnold

Jordan G. Teicher is the associate editor of Slates Behold blog. Follow him on Twitter.