Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Past & Presence

Douglas Dubler created a historical and artistic project that was ideally suited to the unique qualities of the legendary Polaroid 20x24 camera

This Article Features Photo Zoom
In a meditative study for both the photographer, famed portraitist Douglas Dubler, and his subject, 16-year-old ballerina Rachelle Di Stasio, Dubler recently returned to his roots as a film photographer by employing a historic and extremely rare camera, the Polaroid 20x24. Without the possibility to shoot digitally, each of the massive 20x24-inch frames was indispensable. The budget only allowed for five black-and-white exposures.

Imagine a modern professional photographer involved in a photo project allowing only 25 exposures in an entire day—with film so rare, there's no room for tests, mistakes or retries. This is the story of a meeting between a great photographer and a historic camera.

Among the world's foremost beauty and fashion photographers, Douglas Dubler has always seen his career as a series of works in progress. From his early days studying fine arts (and being mentored by Ansel Adams and Noguchi), through his celebrity portraits in Hollywood, to his recent ballet projects, he has looked upon his work as an evolving progression. Always, his invented techniques and accumulated experience have led to newer and more artistically challenging projects. On the way, his photographs have appeared on the covers of virtually every fashion and fine-art photography magazine in the world, from Vogue to the issue you're reading at this moment.

Dubler's hallmark is intensive preparation, acute attention to detail and an approach to collecting and collaborating with a team (models, makeup artists, set designers, technicians) that reflects his vision in every element of the final product. No one is more sensitive than Dubler to the creative dynamics of artist, equipment, technique and subject, and he approaches every project as a creative director, closely involved with his team in every step of the process.

So it seems natural that Dubler would turn the opportunity to shoot with a historic camera into a major exploration of personality, style, context and form. With the Polaroid 20x24 camera, and ballerina Rachelle Di Stasio, Dubler found a model and a medium that meshed with his career-long exploration of motion, image, immediacy and tradition.

John Reuter, who owns the 20x24 camera in New York (along with the last film stocks), has been friends with Dubler for many years, and has encouraged him to do a project on the large-scale instrument. "He would invite me to use the camera," Dubler says. "But I didn't have the project for it. Still, I wanted to use it before it disappears—this is a historical endeavor, as well as an artistic one."

Ballerina/model: Rachelle Di Stasio
Hair & Makeup: Sylvia Pichler for makeuprules.com
Styling: Jersey Murray for blackicemanagement.com
Producer: Steve Titus
Dancewear: Grishko NYC
Broncolor flash courtesy of FotoCare NYC
Backdrop: Broderson Backdrops
Studio: Go Studios NYC
Digital Scans: ColorBurst Studio142
Dubler has created some striking dance photography already, including the large-scale "Swan" images of Irina Dvorovenko (with the American Ballet Theatre in New York). "And I thought some of the dynamic tensions involved would work well with the large Polaroid camera," he adds. "I found a young ballerina, Rachelle Di Stasio, who seemed to me to be a good subject. My goal was to capture a young dancer's persona within the context of the classical ballet. There's a fascinating series of creative contraries at work: the stylized classicism of the form with the immediacy and evanescence of the movement; the rigid rules of ballet with the fluidity of the body; the hard discipline of dance and the spirit and energy of the young dancer."

Di Stasio studies ballet at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre on a full scholarship. She's presently working at the top student level and dreams of being a company member of ABT.


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