During an Open Studio session I invited dancers from their final year at dance school to come in and play. Before we started we decided on a simple palette (black on black) and that we would work with water as a theme. We started with 'standard' dance shots - simple compositions for the dancers' portfolio. I have to admit that as useful as these shots might be for the dancer, I don't find them interesting as images. There are certain conventions in any medium and I think in dance photography there are definitely the cliche images that are perfectly functional images that capture movement and skill effectively. But they aren't exciting or interesting. Are dance photographers obliged to always push the medium and create interesting images, or is it OK to create functional images for the client? These are some of the questions I am pondering. I think that sometimes a lot of the intrigue and drama of dance photography comes from the performer and elements like styling. It's about communicating ideas as well as 'performing.'
For this shoot we were just playing, and I was trying to figure out how dance photography 'works' - what is it about and what can be done with it. The plan is to take this initial exploration to the next step.
(please excuse the quality of these small images - I borrowed them from my old website and need to update them with the proper quality shots - but I wanted to have a few blog posts 'live' on the new site so just borrowed them temporarily)
Perform verb (used with object)
1.to carry out; execute; do:to perform miracles.
2.to go through or execute in the proper, customary, or established manner:to perform the marriage ceremony.
3.to carry into effect; fulfill:Perform what you promise.
4.to act (a play, part, etc.), as on the stage, in movies, or on television.
5.to render (music), as by playing or singing.
6.to accomplish (any action involving skill or ability), as before an audience:to perform a juggling act.
In our case to perform is to accomplish. Which is to complete but also "to provide polish to; perfect."
In terms of the collaboration between the photographer and the performer, it is a unique opportunity to create something original and authentic. I want to bring more to the image than the craft of lighting, exposure and the decisive moment. I do want to create, and to exploit the potential of the collaboration in the hope of creating something interesting.
1.strength or energy; might; power the force of the blow, a gale of great force
2.exertion or the use of exertion against a person or thing that resists; coercion
3.(physics) a dynamic influence that changes a body from a state of rest to one of motion or changes its rate of motion. The magnitude of the force is equal to the product of the mass of the body and its accelerationa static influence that produces an elastic strain in a body or system or bears weight
Here we are changing a body from a state of rest to a state of motion / changing its rate of motion, which is impacted on by the magnitude of the force.
1.a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H 2 O, freezing at 32°F or 0°C and boiling at 212°F or 100°C, that in a more or less impure state constitutes rain, oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.: it contains 11.188 percent hydrogen and 88.812 percent oxygen, by weight.
2.a special form or variety of this liquid, as rain.
3.Often, waters. this liquid in an impure state as obtained from a mineral spring:Last year we went to Marienbad for the waters.
4.the liquid content of a river, inlet, etc., with reference to its relative height, especially as dependent on tide:a difference of 20 feet between high and low water.
We started with the idea of using a 'vessel' and improvising with it. The vessel allowed an element of styling - colour, form, texture, scale. Each dancer selected something from around the studio and worked with it for a few experimental shots. This was an interesting process and it really did reflect on the character of the performer and their own take on the task. The composition of their body, the gesture, the pose, and shape, came from their interpretation of what opportunity the object and the water provided.
trajectory /noun (pl) -ries
1.the path described by an object moving in air or space under the influence of such forces as thrust, wind resistance, and gravity, esp the curved path of a projectile
2.(geometry) a curve that cuts a family of curves or surfaces at a constant angle
We see the trajectory and appreciate and understand the forces at play. The 'action' of dance and choreography is a complex progression of physical forces created and controlled by the body, in response to the forces in and around the body.
1.a substance in a physical state in which it does not resist change of shape but does resist change of size Compare gas (sense 1), solid (sense 1)
2.a substance that is a liquid at room temperature and atmospheric pressure
3.(phonetics) a frictionless continuant, esp (l) or (r)
The shape of the liquid, unrestrained, is responding to the laws of physics as it expresses itself freed from the restraints of the vessel.
I would imagine that the dominant force on it is the complex movement created by the dancer as (s)he interacts with the vessel. The trajectory of the water expresses the complexity of the movement of the dancer. Perfectly.
1.The amount of space occupied by a three-dimensional object or region of space. Volumes are expressed in cubic units.
2.A measure of the loudness or intensity of a sound.
The vessel also creates a limitation on the amount of water it can contain. It defines what can be done with it by it's very shape, size and dispersion aperture. Certain vessels start to dictate how the performer could respond to it, and this becomes a part of what is performed with it. The performer plays with utility.
propel verb (used with object), propelled, propelling.
1.to drive, or cause to move, forward or onward:to propel a boat by rowing.
2.to impel or urge onward:Urgent need of money propelled him to take a job.
Propelling the water from the body; creating a force to move water out of the body and into the air, where it will have a trajectory describing the force and the action of outside forces on it.
suspend verb (used with object)
1.to hang by attachment to something above:to suspend a chandelier from the ceiling.
2.to attach so as to allow free movement:to suspend a door on a hinge.
3.to keep from falling, sinking, forming a deposit, etc., as if by hanging:to suspend solid particles in a liquid.
4.to hold or keep undetermined; refrain from forming or concluding definitely:to suspend one's judgment.
5.to defer or postpone:to suspend sentence on a convicted person.
6.to cause to cease or bring to a stop or stay, usually for a time:to suspend payment.
7.to cause to cease for a time from operation or effect, as a law, rule, privilege, service, or the like:to suspend ferry service.
Photography can respond to movement in many different ways.
We can acknowledge movement and create blur, tracking the movement over time to reveal a trace of the movement.
We can suspend movement, denying its continuing action by capturing it, freezing it, in a single moment, seeing it in a way that we cannot with our own eyes.
We can also pan or track movement, following it to create both a suspension and an acknowledgement, creating an impression of the new movement (the track) on the otherwise motionless background.
Given that water can be frozen, too, it seems appropriate to explore this method of capturing these images. One of my frustrations is the fact that I did not shoot these using hyper-sync - extremely fast shutter speeds with flash. This is one of the things I plan to do in the next stage. I would also like to shoot these using video - I plan to use the RED Epic and exploit its amazing ability to shoot high-speed, slow motion footage at high resolutions – up to 300 frames-per-second. I can't wait to get properly stuck into creating a new series of works with these incredible dancers, and look forward to a continued collaboration.