Alyssa and her Dad, my close friend, Scott Herman came to our Rockville studio for some ballet portraits. My intention was to create an old fashion look using light modifiers with grids and spot lights with scrims to produce images that had an artsy look. As I looked at the test images there was an illustrative feeling that took over, I began to feel as though I was painting with light. I even turned some of the images into black & white while shooting, something I never attempt to do. The most amazing element was Alyssa, a young dancer at the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre & Academy, who from the very moment we started, choreographed her own poses and movement. Many years ago I did a little work with the National School of Ballet and the National Ballet and there has always been an instructor and/or choreographer and even an art director to guide the movement and poses and help with the studio or stage set. We had lots of fun and my trusty high school assistant, student and intern, Devin Streight, shot a lot of pictures as well. I am privileged to work with such talented and visionary young people and hope this small sampling of images from a larger body of work conveys the spirit of the moment.
In 1970 I was commissioned to photograph a series of practices for a local Potomac, Maryland ballet school. The photographs were used for display in the school and I spent many hours in the darkroom skillfully preparing developer delusions for processing the negatives to give a complete range of tonal quality necessary so I could attempt to make the perfect finished print for the client but only recently was I able to digitally manipulate the images to appear as I first saw them through my lens. It’s actually taking more time to craft each image on the computer than it did in the darkroom but the results are stunning. This particular image was photographed with a Hasselblad ELX and an 80mm Ziess Planner lens in a combination of available light and tungsten light. The girls worked on every detail with the help of the instructor, each pose and each movement was choreographed. I took hundreds of exposures during each session and I was always able to get a few gems. Now that I think back on it the instructor acted as a stylist and art director, while the girls produced the art through their movement and I was able to use my craft to capture it. Somehow it seemed like working with an advertising agency or design firm without the pressure. You can bet I will narrow my selection down to only a few images and spend a tremendous amount of time putting together a finished collection.
If there are any specific questions on details involving lighting set-ups, developer dilutions, printing techniques or Photoshopping, please contact me through my Facebook page.