Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dancers Among Us Knocked Out of Avery Fisher Hall

Last week I photographed Jordan Isadore for Dancers Among Us. We met at Lincoln Center on a cold, damp evening. I had no plan to use that location - it's thick with security guards dying to blow their whistles. But we needed to warm up, so we quickly ducked into Avery Fisher Hall where I saw a listening station near the box office. Nicely dressed patrons were enjoying opera on headphones. The image of a dancer rocking out to opera immediately popped into my head, and I laughed out loud.

There was security everywhere, so to avoid calling attention to ourselves prematurely, we went outside to rehearse the pose. Jordan has an absurdly flexible back, and I wanted him to incorporate a back bend into a rock and roll pose. "How far back can you bend?" I asked.

When I saw this pose, I thought, "This could be really cool!" I was buzzing with excitement! But I was also worried about security. I loved the idea of the photo, but I knew all the variables meant that it would take time to get it right, and security may not let me take that time.

We went back inside (trying to look inconspicuous) and grabbed our spot. I took out my camera, which was like having a neon sign flashing, "Kick Me Out! Kick Me Out!," and I wondered if I'd even get off one shot (earlier, security had stopped me immediately when I tried to shoot in front of the fountain outside). To make matters worse, I had to sit on a banister to get my angle.

I asked Jordan to rock out, and he improvised with an air guitar move. I loved it.

I was lucky - I took twenty shots and got a good one before any security arrived. I knew Jordan could bend farther back, and I was hoping for some fun reaction shots. I kept shooting with one eye looking for more guards. People were starting to notice and react.

Fun, but the elements didn't come together perfectly. Crowd shots are challenging because the dancer's position, the crowd's expressions and the spacial relationship between them is all essential. If one of them isn't working, the shot doesn't work. After fifty shots, Jordan was exhausted, but I felt we needed more options. We hadn't matched what I saw in my head (was it possible?). We kept going, and took another fifty photos. Where was security? On a coffee break?

So close. Jordan's position is good, I love the air guitar, and the man's expression is nice. Plus there's space around Jordan, so he stands out. BUT the other guy has his back to us, rather than pointing focus towards Jordan, so it's dead space. And I think Jordan can dip farther back.

Another fifty photos. I'm no longer worried about security - I think they're having a staff meal, or something.

Even closer. Both guys are looking at Jordan, and their expressions are perfect. But I miss the air guitar, and I think Jordan can dip a little farther back. Another twenty photos.

There it is - the image I had in my head! Exhausted, Jordan put everything he had into the pose (including a protruding tongue), just at the moment the woman turned to look disdainfully at him. Two hundred photos later, all the elements finally came together.

And then security arrived. I showed the guard the photo, thanked him for taking his time, and allowed myself to be gently nudged out the door.

As Jordan enjoyed a celebratory cigarette outside, I couldn't help but notice the lights illuminating the steps. "Hey Jordan, can you do one more back bend?"

Postscript - Jordan dances for Skybetter and Associates. I have a really fun shoot scheduled with them on Wednesday from 5pm-8pm at NYU Tisch in the east village. We need volunteers to be in the shot, so email info@skybetter.org if you're interested..