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
Kirkland was surrounded by a sizeable group of press and television cameras who wanted to watch the American photographer take photographs of their icon, The Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova.
Kirkland: Erika is a brilliant and rare performer. She’s an aerialist and has pushed the art of dance to new levels. She trains six hours a day. Her body is her instrument. The first photographs we did became an Italian Vanity Fair story, and we became close working associates and friends. She’s one of my favorite subjects. I have tremendous respect and admiration for her ability as a performer and her grace and elegance. As part of our working together, we decided to collaborate on a video, “Objet du Désir,” which we eventually ended up shooting with the new Canon EOS-1D Mark IV.
DPP: How was putting together a video project with full motion different than shooting stills where you’re working to convey the impression of motion? What mental and technical adjustments did you have to make?
Kirkland: In the late ’60s, I started shooting commercials and documentaries, so I know the vocabulary of cinema—cutaways, smoothness and so on. It’s not just a question of buying a hybrid camera and turning it on. Ultimately, you have to learn about cutting and how the pieces fit together. I used an old Miller tripod with a fluid head, which is very important when shooting video. I also handheld quite a bit. A loupe on the back or an external monitor is mandatory to shoot video—there’s no way to just look at the screen. I had someone pulling focus for me using the Redrock Micro FollowFocus. I used three Canon lenses. Most of it was done with the 24-105mm, but I also used a 16-35mm and a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 for a couple of shots.
DPP: How did you do the lighting for the video shoot?
Kirkland: We had two 2Ks behind Erika and one 750 watt directly in front. If I had needed anymore power, we would have had to bring in a generator truck because of the limitation of electricity at the site I was working at. Because we were able to use ISO 1600 and 3200 with the EOS-1D Mark IV, the generator truck wasn’t necessary. The ability to shoot high ISOs with low noise has emancipated us!
We shot in a rehearsal studio downtown that’s used for people doing aerial work; it’s not a place used for filming. That’s why we had limited access to power. Neal Everett, who runs the place, is an aerialist himself. Safety is a very big deal, of course. This isn’t only about their careers, but their lives. So while the electricity wasn’t good, the rest worked very well.
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