This project was prompted due to a desire to try something new. And not just to “try,” but to really sink my teeth into a new discipline, and to master fine-art studio imagery. The ballet project gave me the opportunity to study, to practice, and refine my skills. Ten years ago I studied with the fine-art photographer Greg Gorman and the print master Mac Holbert, and through them I gained a greater understanding of sculpting light, shadow and form. Over the years I have tried to marry fine-art lighting techniques in my outdoor and adventure photo shoots. And so, while I have not done a traditional studio shoot until now, I have been studying and working towards something of this nature for a long time. But really, the ballet shoot was my first full-fledged studio project. Also, one of the most attractive elements of the project is the powerful combination of athleticism and grace. The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers are truly world-class athletes as well as performance artists. I wanted to capture the essence of their athleticism as well as their incredible skill, in a single image.
Over the years I have been a huge fan of images from Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Greg Gorman and others who work in black-and-white with beautiful models and athletes. This style of imagery had been steadily percolating in my mind. Also, I love Edgar Degas’ paintings with dancers—he has an incredible way of conveying motion, light, form, and humanity. If I could study these craftsmen and master their language of imagery, I was on the right track.
I told the dancers I wanted to capture something that was very special; a collection of images that would be a beautiful representation of their artistry. On the shoot day, my team and I had the lighting, lenses, and framing dialed in before they arrived—so that I could freely focus on collaborating with each dancer to find a range of poses and expressions that would be breathtaking.
The project really did turn out as expected, at least in terms of the images created. However what was unexpected, and what is really resonating within me, are the powerful emotions created from collaborating with such talented artists and human beings. I was wowed by the time and generosity of the dancers, allowing me to come in and share in their craft. I feel so lucky to be a photographer and cinematographer — my job allows me to truly connect with, and to create memories with, special people like these dancers.
The dancers were really thrilled with the images! They were bubbly as they walked through the collection of images, and pointed out images of each other that they liked.
The artistic director said these images were a real treasure for the dancers. He mentioned as an aside that he danced professionally for 15 years, and had never received an image of himself like what the dancers were receiving today.
I really want to thank the dancers, and the artistic director Tom Mossbrucker, for allowing me to photograph with their dance company. They were incredibly generous with their time—and their passion for the project is the reason the images shine!