The Dancer - An EssenceFriday, May 27, 2016
|Albert Galindo - 2016|
For most of my photographic life there were two aspects that were constants. One was my love for the portrait and the other my insistence on controlling my lighting. I have always believed in taking portraits in a studio with my own chosen light.I still do even in my tiny Kitsilano studio.
The grab shots taken in the street have never been to my liking. There was first a Henri Cartier-Bresson then a legion of photographers that made the Cartier-Bresson’s shine in uniqueness.
Ever since I discovered Plato I have been obsessed with the idea of the essence and its terrestrial copy. I remember in the late 60s going to a concert of Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco and spotting a woman sitting in a corner staring at a little glass of crème the menthe. My guess is that under the influence of LSD she was contemplating the essence of green – a perfect green.
While teaching high school in Mexico City in the early 70s I used to tell my students that anyone of them could be in a room with a camera and a light pointing at them. Then one by one, their father, mother, sister, the loved one, the brother, a teacher would all take one snap without moving the setup. I told them that in each case once the pictures where printed and then mixed up one would be able to see which one was taken by the father or the lover. I further told them that if we fed the photographs into a computer and pushed enter the resulting photograph that would shoot out would be the essence of the person (a combination of all the facets that one is and that one reacts and becomes the person one thinks one is for each person one knows.)
|Lauren Stewart - 2012|
Not too long ago I proposed to actor Christopher Gaze (and Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach) to pose for me for tight head shots where he would think about being Romeo, Caesar, Hamlet and Macbeth. There would be no makeup or costume, just the expression. Would we then be able to figure out each part? I believe we could as Gaze is a very good actor. But Gaze is a busy man and has never found the time to satisfy my curiosity.
In the last two weeks with my taking photographs of the dancers of Arts Umbrella in performance, in rehearsals and backstage my thoughts have been about dancers and the essence of a dancer.
It is fashionable these days to photograph dancers (particularly individual ones) up in the air in perfect form, frozen with a high speed light. I find that these photographs do convey dance but they do not show anything of the individual dancer photographed. It sort of reminds me of fashion shots where the model is the model and not a person.
On the other hand my blurs (at ¼ or 1/8 second) do convey the idea of dance and that the blurs are dancers. But the personality of the dancer is again not there.
It seems to me that the only way is through the portrait. It should be a dramatic portrait with a dark side to convey depth and curvature.
|Ria Girard & Béatrice Larrivée - 2015|
As an example of this I have placed here two portraits. One is of Ballet BC Albert Galindo which I took early this year. The other is of my granddaughter Lauren Stewart which I took in 2012. She is now 13 and is in her 7th year with the Arts Umbrella Dance Company. I believe that both portraits convey something of that essence that a dancer is.
But in between that frozen in time picture of the dancer in the air, the dance blur and the portrait is this picture of Béatrice Larrivée and Justin Calvadores. I find it arresting and powerful. It is not completely sharp nor unrecognizably blurry.
When we listen to music we listen to predictable notes. But sometimes there are those odd notes in between that unsettle us. Thelonious Monk exploited well that idea. Could it be that this photograph of the duo conveys an in-between moment not quite at its graceful peak. The thigh muscles are in evidence. There is strain involved.
|Justin Calvadores & Béatrice Larrivée|
And yes it has been many years since I thought of dancers as swans. I know they are persons. I know that they are individuals.