DPP Home Profiles Douglas Kirkland: The Art of Dance

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

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Professional dancers from the film Showgirls worked with Kirkland between takes.
I had the good fortune to have my brother-in-law Benedict Coulter and his Trailer Park company, one of the largest movie trailer advertising companies, agree to do the exceptional editing, which contributed so much to the end result.

DPP: Did you shoot the stills of Erika Lemay that ended up in Vanity Fair Italy at the same time?

Kirkland: The Vanity Fair Italy shoot was done six months earlier. I used three Dynalite strobes with grid spots from the side and back, and one in a softbox on a boom above her as a fill light. I created the spotlight effect on the seamless on the floor after the shoot in Photoshop.

DPP: During the shoot, were you tethered to a computer? Do you like to have the images go right to a computer and a big monitor on the set?

Kirkland: No. I shoot to cards. I don’t want people looking at the computer screen and judging it. I want to keep shooting. Sometimes people don’t work as hard because they see a picture that works and then say, “You’ve already got it.” Shoots can get carried away from the photographer if it becomes a group effort. I’ll usually just show people the image on the back of the camera to give them an idea of how things are looking.

Desert Dance
DPP: During this ongoing series, the movie and dance worlds converged on several occasions for you, such as your work with the dancers in Showgirls.

Kirkland: I was shooting publicity stills for the movie during the same period I was doing my book of nudes. A lot of the dancers agreed to be photographed nude, so I set up a studio in Lake Tahoe where the movie was being filmed.

DPP: What’s the story behind your desert dance shoot?

Kirkland: I was given an assignment by Canon to do anything I wanted to do with their new, at that time, EOS-1D. I cast a couple, two wonderful dancers—Edouard, who’s Russian, and Carolina, who’s Brazilian—and we traveled to a dry lakebed in the California desert. I had two Canon strobes with #85 gels. I waited until just after the sun had set and shot at 1/8th of a second as they danced. I shot with a slow sync. I didn’t use rear sync because it doesn’t work well with dance photos. When I see the exact moment I want, bang! I can press the shutter. I want to determine exactly when the instant is right for the flash and not leave it to chance.

DPP: One of the interesting aspects is that you’ve captured the inherent beauty of so many forms of dance, including ballet. Describe the circumstances around the Svetlana Zakharova image.


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