Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dancers Among Us Faces Its Greatest Challenge

Tomorrow and Saturday I will be photographing the Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center. The purpose is to illustrate their move to the David H. Koch Theater for their upcoming New York season. The images we will create are inspired by Dancers Among Us. Since many of the company members were the first dancers photographed for the series two years ago, this is truly a full circle assignment. And a huge one.

Paul Taylor is certainly one of the world's greatest living choreographers, so it is a distinct honor and unique opportunity to collaborate with his company. This is a very high stakes assignment that requires thoughtful preparation, yet my shooting style is spontaneous. I rarely scout locations, and I rely on my ability to improvise in the moment. Yet with ten dancers utilizing dozens of locations and costumes, with photographers and videographers recording behind-the-scenes footage, and with widespread rain in the forecast, my off-the-cuff approach is about to be tested like never before. To be safe, I've immersed myself in pre-production, creating a long shot list and researching each dancer's strengths. Right?

Not exactly. I stopped by Lincoln Center one evening and took a few iPhone photos. Does that count as pre-production?

As we used to say in my baseball days, "Dance with the one that brung you." The success I've received with Dancers Among Us is due to the spontaneous nature of the photographs, and to abandon that now would be undermining what makes the work unique.

I must admit, I have no idea what will happen. That makes me nervous. And excited. Great risk can yield great rewards, but that's not a guarantee. Everyone at Paul Taylor has been incredibly supportive of my process, but it is a huge risk for them as well. I enter the shoot with that weight on my shoulders. It is my responsibility alone to create photographs worthy of the company's immense talent and reputation.

As everyone gathers around me on Friday, waiting for instructions, I will focus on the environment around us, looking for inspiration. Will I find it?