Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Douglas Kirkland: The Art of Dance
As one of his great personal and professional passions, Douglas Kirkland reflects on his past, present and future dance photography
|The incomparable Erika Lemay photographed in Los Angeles. Kirkland has lit her to accentuate the lines of her body as she moves.|
DPP: What is it about dance that moves you?
Douglas Kirkland: Dance is one of the most graceful art forms, in my world at least. It can be thought of as a form of nonverbal communication. Most people like music, and I’m no exception. It’s the visual equivalent of music for me. As a photographer, I’m very moved by beauty, and nothing is more pleasing to me than to see dancers in motion.
With the help of John Reuter and two assistants, Kirkland worked with the 20x24-inch Polaroid. The lighting was from 5000-watt-second strobes and two medium-sized softboxes at ƒ/45, with a #85 gel in front of the lens for a warming effect.
Kirkland: I don’t think of it as difficult. I don’t see it in a negative way. All photography, for me, of people is being sensitive to them. You have to remember that dancers are artists, and they commit enormously to their profession. It’s not an easy profession for most of them, and few become big stars. They live minimally off their passion. They do it for their art. Musicians are the same. I want to be a partner with them in making something beautiful happen. You start with your relationship with people.
DPP: For your work with dancers, over the years you’ve incorporated a number of formats, including the huge 20x24 Polaroid. How were you able to work with the 20x24 and still capture the sense of fluidity and motion?
Kirkland: I worked with the same artists in two separate sessions in New York’s Polaroid studio with my friend John Reuter. I got the warm effect on the color images by shooting through a #85 gel. Working with the 20x24 is a huge challenge—you have to block out the moves—but there was an understanding of what we were trying to accomplish between myself and my subject. We used silks and a fan to help create a sense of motion. With the large format, you’re creating an image and putting more of an absolute stamp on it. There’s no sequential shooting, and depth of field is extremely critical. Most artists feel much more secure when they’re creating and performing, and I constantly encourage [them] when we work together. This is especially critical working with large formats. Photography is a mutually creative process.
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