Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Embarrassment of Riches

Last week, I asked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for volunteers to shoot Dancers Among Us as a test for a Hasselblad camera review in PDN Magazine. I was overwhelmed by everyone's enthusiasm. How could I possibly choose?

The submissions ranged from the patriotic:
@BrookieBallet (Instagram & Twitter)

To the collaborative:
@ShanerDennis (Twitter)
 To the poetic:
@OfficiallyIrene (Instagram & Twitter)

 To the acrobatic:
@Moderina7902 (Instagram)

But this one of Maria Ambrose really caught my eye:
@mambrose9 (Twitter)

Ironically, the photo was taken by Dancer Among Us Jennifer Jones:
Jennifer Jones channeling Marilyn Monroe in NYC

Kismet! I decided to shoot Maria for Hasselblad yesterday in Ft. Tryon Park, NYC:

Then as the sun set, I grabbed my Nikon and continued to shoot, inspired by Maria's enthusiasm and fearlessness:


Thank you to all the dancers who submitted their photos. I've kept links to all of your photos and will likely be contacting many of you soon to shoot! And thank you to dancer and photographer Jennifer Jones for the collaboration.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fifteen Ways To Relax Your Subjects (without music or massage oil)

The greatest challenge facing portrait photographers is the anxiety people feel when they get in front of a camera. Here are a few lessons I've learned over the years that help me get the very best from my subjects:

1. Get them up so early in the morning that they're just too tired to be nervous.

2. Give your subject something to hold so they're not thinking about what to do with their hands. 

3. Many photographers get their subjects a little tipsy before shooting. While I'm not usually an advocate of this approach, if I'm gonna do it I don't mess around...

I might even join in myself...

...but not too much drinking or bad things can happen.

4. If alchohol's not your thing, ice cream is a good alternative. Gets the blood pumping. 

5. Encourage your subject to bring a friend or two...

...or a rock star.

6. If you're shooting an engagement photo, go back to the place where it all began. 

7. Kids hate to stand still, so don't ask them to. 

8. If you're shooting a group photo and they don't know what to do...

...have them try some silly stuff to loosen up. It will probably be the photo they love the most.

9. Encourage them to wear the clothing that suits them best.

10. If you ask your subject to do something dangerous...

...do it with them.

11. Respect their personal space. Get a long lens and shoot from really far away. Especially if you have bad breath.

 12. Show some enthusiasm for the photos. It will encourage them to go further.

13. If you're shooting outside and they complain about the cold weather, suffer with them in solidarity.

14. If they keep complaining, challenge them to a push-up contest. That'll warm them up.

15. Finally, tattoo this positive affirmation to your arm and refer to it whenever your subject says "No" to anything!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Life's a Circus

While in Paris for Dancers Among Us yesterday, Cirque Du Soliel juggler Basile Dragon contacted me on Facebook about a photo shoot. I had no idea what to expect, as juggling is terribly difficult to photograph. He turned out to be a fun and collaborative partner, and together we conceived of a clown taking a coffee break.

Even Basile wasn't immune to accidents (this one cost me ten Euro, which is like $2000 dollars in the US).

As I got to know Basile, his story fascinated me. These are his own words:

"When I was a 14-year-old kid in Paris, I met the 'Smallest Circus in the World'. I decided immediately that I wanted to live the circus life, and I started to juggle. When I was 18 I started training professionally, which means 6 to 8 hours of juggling every day (plus dance, contortion, trapeze, acrobatic, theater, etc). At 19 I was already working, mostly in the street and in any underground show I could find in Europe (plus training 6 hours every day).

At 24, I went to the Moscow Circus School in Russia to learn the Russian juggling technique, and I never stopped traveling the world to work with the best jugglers. I created my own juggling technique that takes into consideration the human body in general, and each juggler's body specificity. It is body friendly and made to allow me to juggle until I'm old (very old).

Around 27, I started to work a lot in Cabaret, Circus, Theater, Opera, etc. Probably 200 shows a year, and I was 'only' training 2 to 4 hours a day (you have to spare your energy for the show!). I've worked with so many companies around the planet that I can't count them!"

Sounds like an awesome career to me! To see Basile in action, take a look at these Vine videos I shot after our session:

Vine Video 1
Vine Video 2

Basile Dragon's Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/16Q9kL9