Sometimes a photographer’s best pictures are the result of a plan. Other times the images are spontaneous and a complete surprise. I often know when I’ve captured one of those special photographs, and with my high speed camera I’m clicking off a half dozen pictures in no time to make sure I didn’t miss the perfect moment composed exactly as I want it (and with no blinks). On occasion I do capture something special and have no idea the great picture exists at all until I’ve seen it on my monitor, or in the days of film, on a contact sheet. The PBG 100, photographs #4 and #5 were taken during completely different circumstances but I love them both.
Image #4 of Alida Rose was taken the evening we first met. It was a night shoot in Central Park at the Terrace Arcade near Bethesda Fountain. I wasn’t sure I would get any good pictures at all let alone an image that moved me. Alida was a complete surprise. She’s an amazing woman who somehow knows exactly what I’m looking for in a photograph. After the night of shooting was over I had no idea all the pictures would be so beautiful. I knew some of the black fabric shots could be great but I had no idea they were this special. It was one of those times when a planned shoot got unexpected results. Alida blew me away and gave me one of the best pictures of my life.
Image #5 of Katherine Crockett was taken during a dress rehearsal of Martha Graham’s Night Journey, only a month after I took Alida’s portrait. There are so many similarities between the pictures even though the two work situations were entirely different.
I hadn’t photographed the Graham company in over a decade and I had never seen Night Journey. As with so many dance shoots, I had no idea what to expect in terms of the dancers, choreography, or lighting. On the way to the shoot all I knew was I would be shooting amazing dancers and the understanding that my style of photography is made for Martha Graham’s style of dance. I was certain I’d take some great pictures. Getting something special is another story. That’s rare even in the best of circumstances.
I always photograph the dancers warming up on stage before a dress rehearsal. At that time I have the ability to move quietly around the theater without causing a commotion while the tech crews are setting up. I often use an extreme telephoto lens at this time to get in close to the dancers. There is a special energy on the stage during the warm up that’s wonderful but impossible to put into words. The dancers are usually working alone, going through the steps of the dance. Their concentration is so intense it looks like they’re deep in meditation. Twelve dancers might be on the stage together but each one is totally in their own world. On occasion, two come together to work on a part but after a few moments separate, again working alone in their own worlds.
The photograph of Katherine was taken during one of these moments. She was working on a solo from Night Journey and focused on the emotion of the dance. I zoomed in as close as possible and followed her face as she moved across the stage. The fabric came up around her face and body and I clicked away. I knew immediately I had captured something great, a photograph I would love for all time.