The set was massive, an elevated steel deck three feet off the ground. We had three walls painted matte black, as well as a matte black floor. That was very thought out. But inside these three walls and that crazy floor, I really wanted to be surprised.
DPP: Why did you build a deck instead of having the dancers on the studio floor?
Silver: For a couple of reasons. I wanted the experience of having them on stage. I also wanted the feeling of the dancers being enclosed in this space that was a little claustrophobic. But more than anything, it was in order to get the lighting in the right place; the floor had to be off the ground. For the dancers, it felt special. You put a dancer on stage and they transform.
DPP: What did you do in terms of post on the video?
Silver: Stephen chose the music for the video, which really helped. It set the mood. I worked closely with a fantastic editor, Thomas Ramsey. Post for me is as important as the shoot itself. You spend a lot of time "concepting" a shoot, why would you throw it out into the universe? Your postproduction and preproduction require the same amount of care.
DPP: Your background in dance must help you in this work. Did you think you were going to be a professional dancer when you grew up?
Silver: If I were delusional. I learned very quickly that I didn't have what it took to be a professional dancer—although I cried when I figured it out at age 13. When I realized that I could have something just as rewarding by directing it in a photographic setting, I ran with it. I have an incredibly wonderful career shooting movement with fashion and beauty. My background in dance has allowed me to be a really good photographer. I may have been sad when I was 13, but now I consider myself immensely lucky. I married a professional dancer. I know what it takes—incredible stamina and flexibility and an ability to be extraordinary with your physical being—and I didn't have it.
DPP: Dancers tend to have pretty impressive bodies to photograph.
Silver: That's true, but if you're not helping accentuate it with lighting, then you're not showcasing their physiques. I always use some sort of tripod or camera stand because I like to see the big picture of the performance and use a remote to trigger the shutter. I prefocus and stand next to the camera. When I'm on the Hasselblad, I'm on a remote trigger. I don't even look through the camera. I set it, then I forget it, because I want to see the action. It's about anticipating the moves. You go for the Cartier-Bresson decisive moment.
DPP: His famous decisive moment shot is of a man jumping over a puddle behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. It looks like a dance movement.
Silver: Dance is a reflection of real life, and real life is movement.
You can see more of Sarah Silver's work at www.sarahsilver.com.
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