Friday, September 28, 2012

Dancers Among Us is TOO HOT for Facebook

On Monday I posted an image from my upcoming book, Dancers Among Us, that received quite a bit of attention on Facebook. It was viewed by 4,000 people, registered over 300 likes, and received a slew of enthusiastic comments and shares.

Unfortunately, this photograph was so shocking and outrageous that Facebook was forced to remove it from my wall. They had no choice- the world's delicate sensibilities had to be protected.

After much inward reflection and turmoil, I have decided to post the terrifying photograph here. A word of warning: Before scrolling down any further, make sure there are no children present- the shock might be too much for them.

And now, without further ado, I give to you the offending image-

This is Matthew Oaks in his apartment in Astoria, NY. Oddly enough, Matt tends to shower naked. In retrospect, I realize there was a much better way to shoot this image- a way that stays consistent with the Facebook version of life. 

Lesson learned.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stop the Presses! Dancers Among Us is Delayed... by Dancers Among Us

Last week I was lucky to go on press for the printing of Dancers Among Us. I flew to Indiana with two members of the Workman Publishing team- Netta Rabin, the brilliant senior designer/editor who discovered and created the book, and Doug Wolff, senior production manager in charge of making everything look beautiful (among a thousand other things).

The day was gorgeous- a harbinger of things to come.

We arrived bright and early, and we were escorted through the huge facility (several football fields, at least) to the area where Dancers Among Us was printing. We had to wear steel toe boots and ear plugs, and once we arrived on press I understood why. It's very loud, very dangerous, and very exciting! The printing press moves at an insane pace and never stops!

The press never stops, that is, unless a dancer arrives wearing pointe shoes and a tank top. Kara Lozanovski drove three hours from Chicago to help me memorialize this special moment with a new Dancers Among Us photo. Everyone was concerned for her safety, so they agreed to stop the presses for thirty minutes while we rushed to complete the process.

I found a perfect spot with printing plates strewn about; it had a gritty feel and amazing light. "We need to make her really grimy and exhausted looking, like she's been on press all night," I said. "She needs to be covered in ink from head to toe."

Everyone balked at this idea. "There's no way she'll be able to get the ink off. Can you just put it on her shirt instead? Definitely not on her skin."

I looked at Kara. She smiled. I grabbed an ink knife-

By the time we figured out the pose, we had about ten minutes to shoot. It all came down to the final seconds. Production schedules can't be delayed. I was shooting frantically until I just couldn't stall anymore. In the end, my favorite shot catches Kara candidly glancing over at Netta with a look of intensity on her face. It was a real moment- that pose was not easy to hold!

It was a magical day. Everyone on press was enthusiastic about their work, and the final pages look gorgeous as a result! And I have a great new photograph to feature in my next book, More Dancers Among Us (which means we HAVE to do a follow-up book, right Workman team?).

Oh, and about that ink? Turns out it's not so difficult to remove after all (provided you have some kind of magical industrial strength turpentine concoction).

Dancers Among Us hits bookstores on October 23, but you can pre-order your copy here. You can also purchase tickets for the launch party in NYC with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dancers Among Us Launch Party with Paul Taylor Dance Company

I began this journey over three years ago with eleven dancers from Paul Taylor Dance Company. They volunteered to work with me on their precious few days off, despite the fact that I had just the beginning of a concept and absolutely no dance photography experience. Yet they were very invested in the process, often returning several times with new ideas. Their commitment and creativity were invaluable, and I am deeply indebted to them. It is a great honor that they will join me to celebrate the release of the book they inspired. It's been a long and exciting three years, and on October 23 it all comes full circle.

Join me for the Dancers Among Us Launch Party!

Dancers Among Us Launch Party
A PTDC Young Patron Event
Tuesday, October 23rd
Celebration begins at 7:00pm
OUT Hotel
510 West 42nd Street
New York, NY

Tickets are limited, reserve your spot today!:

This venue is so cool that I might just sleep here until October 23. Someone bring me a new shirt, please. And some toothpaste.

See you soon!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Divine Endorsement for Dancers Among Us

The first stop on my 30 hour trip to Seattle for Dancers Among Us was about an hour outside of town in Edmonds, WA. I was due to shoot a young dancer named Claire Conaty. Her mother, Leanne, had contacted me, asking if Claire could participate in a photo shoot. My schedule was already booked when Leanne emailed me, but once she mentioned that Claire attended Holy Rosary Catholic School, I took the bait.

"Can you get me access to the school? I'd need lots of students in the shot. Will they wear their uniforms? Oh boy, this could be AMAZING!"

The students all gathered in a classroom and waited. And waited. I was two hours late. By the time I arrived, they were feeling a bit stir crazy- I could tell by all the debris on the ground.

As I explained the purpose of the shoot, they were all respectfully quiet. And boring. I needed crazy energy, and they looked ready to fall asleep. I saw a paper airplane on the ground, and it gave me an idea. I told them all to grab some paper and throw it at the teacher- it was time to live out every student's fantasy. They stayed still, not sure what to do.

"I'm serious," I said.

"I'm serious," a boy's voice mocked me under his breath.

"Who said that?"

Everyone looked at the same kid. He smiled sheepishly.

"Perfect! That's the kind of attitude I'm looking for," I told him. "Come sit up front in Cyrus's desk, and be a real pain in the butt. Everyone follow his lead."

It didn't take them long to warm up. They all improvised masterfully, right down to a boy sleeping on the desk and two girls whispering in one another's ears. The teacher was a great sport, and Claire seriously rose to the occasion- she jumped off the desk thirty times, and nailed her pose every time!

When I really love a photograph, I will often say to myself, "Thank God I got that shot." This time, I mean it literally.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Sun Sets on Dancers Among Us at Joshua Tree National Park

I was groggy when I met Jamila Glass from LA Contemporary Dance on my first morning in Los Angeles. I had been working into the wee hours with So You Think You Can Dance star Ricky Palomino (we shot a top secret photo at 3am in a downpour in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard). I was exhausted, but Jamila quickly woke me up with her infectious energy and enthusiasm.

We headed for the Hollywood Hills, looking for the famous view of downtown LA. Jamila tried several poses before she struck this beautiful back bend.

I was happy and headed off to other shoots. But as I lived with the image, I realized it could be much better. The contrast between her pose and the background was too stark- I wanted something softer. I invited Jamila to join me on a long road trip with several dancers to Joshua Tree National Park. Along for the ride was my friend, collaborator and long-time makeup artist, Ivy Vahanian.

We took several beautiful shots that day, making for a thrilling trip. As the sun was setting, I raced to shoot one final image. I asked Jamila to repeat her pose, this time in a much softer environment. I thought it was stunning.

Ivy didn't agree. Never one to hold back her opinion, she started screaming at me, desperately imploring me to see the shot from a different perspective.

"Please, please, please, PLEASE shoot this as a silhouette. JUST LOOK AT IT ALREADY."

To appease her so I could get back to my shot before the sun disappeared, I turned around and immediately understood her urgency.  Now this photograph is one of my favorite images in my Dancers Among Us book. I should have learned long ago to listen when Ivy speaks.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Countdown Begins for Dancers Among Us

Just 48 days until Dancers Among Us hits stores everywhere.

Be ready for October 23:

Original Dancer Among Us Eran Bugge of Paul Taylor Dance Company, the company that inspired the project in 2009, along with a wonderful blurb provided by cultural ambassador and friend of PTDC, Alan Cumming, a Tony Award winning actor now starring in The Good Wife.