About the picture: A dancer’s day is one of extreme self-discipline. As Stephanie describes it, the hours of the day are filled with “sweat, striving for near-perfection, and focus.” The act of tying the hair back into a bun marks the transition point. It means the time to work is at hand. It has, for her, an almost meditative quality.
About the project: Rated PJ is a yearlong photography project that explores the question of what motivates certain people to wake up earlier (or stay up later) than others. What I am hoping to catch a glimpse of in this series of portraits is the transition area where the extraordinary and the everyday meet.
Here are just a few stage shots from Charleston Ballet‘s 2009 Nutcracker performances. It was a wonderful experience, shooting from the wings as these dancers dazzled the audience. Thanks again to Jill and to the entire company for having me there… and for just being the superstars that they are!
Documenting a live performance can be challenging (sending an assistant onto the stage to hold a reflector near someone’s face is a definite no-no) but it is absolutely worth it. You can’t always get the perfect angle (without risking being in sight of the audience, obviously), and you are a bit at the mercy of the stage lighting, so it’s the perfect time to practice being the “branch that bends with the wind,” so to speak.
Use the force, young Jedi (well, that and put on fast glass, up the ISO, and shoot wide open) and you’ll get your shots. Besides, there’s so much positive energy flowing back and forth between the performers and the audience that you can’t help but walk away with a smile!
My grandmother sent me a Barnes & Noble gift card this year for Christmas, inspiring me to purchase Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision by David duChemin.
It’s a book I very much recommend not only to photographers but to anyone interested in experiencing the world with more awareness and compassion. It does not discuss how to make a photograph so much as why to make a photograph. It is about communicating your personal experience of the world in the images that you share.
Because a photograph should be more than a record of what you saw. It should a record of how you felt while you experienced it.
It’s about remembering that the people in your photographs are not props; they are the people with whom you share this roller coaster ride called life. And you can’t share a ride with someone without feeling something.
Reading duChemin’s book while engrossed in a project I am working on with Jill Eathorne Bahr, resident choreographer of Charleston Ballet, made me more aware of what an amazing gift I had received from her when she invited me behind the scenes of the Nutcracker this season, not only to document what was happening on stage during the performances, but also to capture the quieter moments backstage.
Take any two people to observe a place where other people are interacting and each will leave with his or her own story to tell. There’s an idea, I believe it’s from the Hindu tradition, that we are the eyes through which God – however you may define that – experiences the world. I like that very much. It suggests that each one of us has a personal vision and experience of the world that is profoundly important as part of the whole and that none of us has the complete picture. Does that make sense? To me, it means that we all need each other in order to make any sense of this world at all.
I’ve long understood that the way I see the world is not the most common way. If several dozen people rush to see a parade, but a single person stands in the corner, looking away, lost in thought, I am more drawn to that single individual.
It is worthwhile to reflect on the possibility that what the loudest voices in a crowd tell us to pay attention to may not be always be the most important aspect of a thing. When we look to the side, or behind us, sometimes we see people and ideas that we never knew were there, all along, sharing the ride.
Mad love to Jill and Kyle at Charleston Ballet for inviting me to help out with this recent photo shoot for their upcoming production of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, part of the Children’s Dance series.
The men and women of Charleston Ballet Theatre are some of the hardest working folks in show business here in the South Carolina Lowcountry. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these aren’t just performers, these are athletes. Think about the hours they train, every single day, in order to do what they do on stage. Think of the concentration and timing. Think of their poor toes at the end of the week!
Thanks, Charleston Ballet, for making the arts scene shine so much brighter in our town.