Archive for the ‘Movement from Within’ Category

So thrilled to be a part of this month’s issue of Riviera San Diego magazine! The image featured is one of my favorites from my dancer’s soul shoot with Mathew Paul Chounlamontry. I am beyond thrilled that I even got a chance to say a few words about the shoot & what these dance shoots are all about — an “artist’s statement” if you will. :) I am so glad people are responding to these images — it makes me want to go out and photograph more dancers!

You can read the article online here.

/////////////////////// on expectations , becoming who you really are & moving with meaning

“You can’t perfect emotion.” — Kyle Filley

I think expectations are something we all battle with. Sometimes people will expect us to be & act a certain way, or look a certain way, or even have our plans & futures to be a certain way. Or these expectations can come from within. We expect ourselves to be perfect, to have it all together and figured out.

But that’s never the reality is it?

Kyle is a dancer who is at the brink of his future. Initially, he was going to study medicine and become a doctor, but about a year ago he decided that no, that’s not what he really wants to be — at least not right now.

Instead, he wants to pursue what he loves, and that is a career in dance.

That’s not an easy decision to make. Especially if expectation comes into play. It can be external expectations from others, or perhaps expectations that comes from ourselves. Shouldn’t we pursue something that gives us security? Shouldn’t we be selfless? Shouldn’t we do things for the greater good — or for “the long run”?

The thing is, I wholeheartedly believe that if everyone were pursuing what they truly loved, then it would be for the greater good because everyone would simply be happier & more fulfilled.

When I first found out that Kyle was going to pursue dance professionally, I was thrilled. Ecstatic, even. At the time, I barely knew him, really — I only knew of him because I would see him around our dance studio. I would really only get to see him dance at the yearly recitals. I always thought he was a lovely dancer, but it wasn’t until his final recital year as a senior that I saw everything change. When he got on stage, it was as if he was pouring himself into what he was doing — every moment, every extension had meaning for him. It was as if he was becoming who he truly was.

And that was a dancer.

I think it’s a special thing when people realize what they truly want in life, and where they want to go. Screw expectations, this a passion, a desire. Something that simple cannot be extinguished with time. I’ve seen it time and time again, even with my own self. It’s a brave, brave thing to admit it, and move towards it. Especially if you have fears about it, especially if you have doubts. Especially if you have voices in your head saying “Shouldn’t you be doing ______ instead? What will others think??”

That’s when you say: “No, this is who I am.”

Own it.

I’ve said it before, but dance is not always about technique, especially when it comes to expressing ourselves. My favorite moment during the entire session was when I asked Kyle to dance through a strong emotion — & for him that was frustration. Namely, frustration tied with expectation. During that part, I saw him moving through emotion, and the energy that was coming from him was palpable. This is one of the things I truly love about dance — when you see the other person conversing with you, through only movement & energy. Because where the energy is, that’s where the meaning is. Where the emotion is. Even when the emotion is one that isn’t pleasant to deal with, like frustration. Moving to it is often a way for us to deal with it, to express it, to put it out into the world.

Which is why I am so thrilled that Kyle is doing something that allows him to express himself through movement, which I think for many people who love dance simply need. We need to talk in another language. And that language is dance. I am also happy that he recognized what he needed to find his bliss in the world, and to keep doing it. I think too often we let expectations get in the way of us doing what we truly love, and becoming who we truly are and doing what we truly need. We let other forces dictate how we should be living our lives, when really, we should take control and say no, this is who we really are. And own it. Be proud of it. Because that is you.

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Wardrobe styling by Susan Yee

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past dancers: mathew paul chounlamontrymelissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper

/////////////////////  a lesson on courage & vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a funny thing. Sometimes we think we have an understanding of it, we have a grasp on it. But often it comes up when we least expect it, especially if we feel like we’re in control. But that’s often how vulnerability operates right? It just appears and takes you by surprise. & that’s scary.

My dear friend Mat and I have been friends for many, many years, and some of my memories of Mat when we were younger were of him dancing. Dancing always struck me as a part of him, so it surprised me a few years ago when he told me that he had stopped dancing, and indicated that he didn’t have any intention to get back into it. Instead he was going to focus on acting and I just remember thinking… “Why??”

The idea of him not dancing seemed like a foreign concept to me, but I didn’t press it.

When I asked him a few years later if he’d be willing to participate in my ‘dancer’s soul’ series, I wasn’t sure how he would react or if he’d want to, because I didn’t know where dance fit into his life anymore. During that conversation, he revealed that he was getting back into dance, and I thought how wonderful this experience and shoot would be for him. It would be the perfect way to reopen this part of his life again.

As I’ve said before, these shoots teach me so much. When I walk away, I always have new insights — not only in dance, but in people, as well as my own self. The biggest thing that struck me about this shoot was Courage. More specifically, Courage that goes hand in hand with Vulnerability.

It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. Dancing, in it’s purest form, is essentially movement within vulnerability. Sure, one can dance without being vulnerable, but for dance to reach out to others, for it to be able to communicate beautifully, you need to be exposed.

You need to be willing to lay yourself on the line, and risk the fear of looking silly, or for others judging you. Or, the risk of experiencing & exposing emotions and parts of yourself that you haven’t reached in a long time. And to do that takes a lot of courage, because often that fear can paralyze you.

But the trick is to not let that paralyze you. Because then it would mean that fear is winning, and the world doesn’t get to experience all that you have to offer. And the world needs to see what you have to offer. Because it is worthy of being seen.

Since Mat hasn’t been dancing as much as some of my other dancers have been, he was experiencing walls that would prevent him from even moving. He would have movement bursts, where he would try and push himself, and open up, only to have that fear wall come right back up and block him. He would actually stand there, unable to move. I felt for him, and wanted to help him find that opening.

That opening where his emotions and his movement can become one, and become powerful.

Towards the end of the shoot, he was standing there, and I was encouraging him to dance through it and feel it. The music was so beautiful, and so meaningful, and I began to move. Slowly, I started dancing, and I remember in my head I was thinking “Come join me. Dance with me.” The movement I was creating was an opening for him to come through, and a space to move through it.

That was a joyous moment for me, because I like to describe these shoots like a dance. I am often dancing with the dancer — maybe not in a traditional sense, but we are moving together — me taking photos, them expressing themselves openly. Creating an experience together, moving through vulnerability, with courage.

The trick is to not let those fears, those doubts, those worries, get to your head. Prevent you from sharing with the world. Those emotions that you haven’t accessed in years may be scary, but at the same time, it is what connects us. The human experience is largely about connecting, and to do so, we need to be vulnerable & open. & that, of course, takes courage.

P.S. A few weeks after the shoot, he texted me & told me that he had been dancing everyday since the shoot. :)

Wardrobe styling by Susan Yee

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past dancers: melissa | tiffany | emily

Each one of us has our own voice, our own way of speaking. Dance is no different than this, except for the fact that instead of speaking with words, it speaks with movement. As I progressed more into my dancer’s soul series, there were still moments where I was wasn’t entirely sure where I was going with these series. What my voice was. All I knew is that I wanted to photograph dancers differently that what one normally sees when they think of dance photography. But as I photograph each dancer, the path becomes more and more clear.

Meet Melissa, a beautiful dancer who happens to be one of my dance instructors. We met when she took over the adult jazz class at the studio, and she and I hit it off. We gabbed like we were old friends. :) I told her about my dance project and immediately asked her if she would like to be a part of it.

Often when I go into these shoots, I don’t have a set idea of what is going to happen. The same happens for many of my other shoots – like with engagements and weddings, and etc. I may scout out locations to get a feel for the place and perhaps the light, but for the most part, I am winging it along the way. When something captures my fancy, I gravitate towards it. When it comes to shooting people, a lot of the factor not only comes with the location, but the people themselves. Shooting people is an art that requires connecting with people, and most importantly, authentically capturing them in the best way possible. And I don’t mean the perfectly posed portrait. I mean looking towards the best in them and saying: you are enough.

In this, it means making them comfortable and allowing them to be themselves and speak freely through not only their voices but their movement, their body language. That is not the easiest task in the world to do — a lot of times when a camera is pointed at someone, they will put up a “front,” pose, make a camera-worthy face and put their best foot forward. I am totally guilty of this myself! There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not who they are deep down. And that is what I am interested in when I photograph people. The beauty that emanates from within. When people feel comfortable enough to let themselves go.

Coming back to dancers, there is one thing that I think happens with classically trained dancers — they tend to bury their own voice when they dance. Not everyone does this — the dancers that are truly captivating have the ability to let their own soul seep into their movement, but many dancers tend to shove this in the back corners of themselves because classically trained dancers are almost always told what to do. How to look. How perfect your line should be. No, that’s not good enough, keep pushing. That foot could be pointed just a little bit more. That leg could be extended just a little more. And even if it’s not necessarily coming from someone else, it will be coming internally — comparing themselves to others who can do all those things they can’t. It’s a dangerous thing, and causes one to put themselves aside to strive to be someone else (or a more perfect version of themselves) because they no longer think that they are enough. Like I’ve stated before, it is important for dancers to improve skills, but I also think it is important to not lose sight of who you are in that movement.

When Melissa and I first began shooting, I asked her to warm up and dance to a few songs while I snapped away. The beginning of a shoot is always the “getting to know you” phase where we feel each other out and begin to get comfortable around one another. About halfway through the shoot, I noticed that I felt more when I saw Melissa dancing with her upper body. When I saw her putting her energy through her upper half — it’s as if I felt her talking. Speaking. Her dancer’s soul coming straight on through. It was after that realization that I asked her to focus her energy on her upper half and from that point on I began to get really excited about the images because then I felt like I could see her. She was speaking to me. And that was enough.

I realized after this shoot that there is another dimension to these series that I did not consider until now. The idea that these shoots are giving dancers a platform to speak. Speak from their own voices. Not just something someone else choreographed. I want to hear them. I want them to come out so that they can reconnect with that thing that made them want to dance so badly in the first place years ago.  Sure, it can be connected with through improv dance as well, but I feel like there is something more vulnerable with having that photographed because it’s like you can see the layers and dimension and depth in a photo that you may not get otherwise save being right in front of them. Plus you can revisit that moment more & not only that, I feel like a photograph allows you to sit in a moment for longer than you might in any other way. In this – it’s scarier to be photographed doing something so vulnerable.

But the beauty you see in it is definitely second to none — save for being in that very moment yourself.

I have made it a goal of mine in 2012 to photograph at least one dancer every month for this project. Who knows where the path will take me, but I just know that each time I photograph a dancer, I gain a indispensable amount of insight that makes the shoots themselves just totally worth it. I feel like I am creating and working towards something very worthwhile here, and that gives me great, great joy . !

(If you know of any dancers that may be interested in this project, please have them contact me! mail at enpointephotography dot com)

past dancers: emily | tiffany






“It feels like a really good conversation. There’s an exciting chemistry that runs through my body. Have you ever been on a really good first date? Or maybe spent hours on the phone with a new boyfriend and not even realized it was three a.m? I am energized and smitten. I am in love.”

- Tiffany
Dancing Branflake

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Perfecting technique is something that every dancer strives for. This is how they improve and grow. While it is essential in dance, I find that it’s only part of the equation to a talented dancer. It’s only part of the equation to dancing itself.

The other part, I think, is to let go.

When I approached Tiffany for my dance photography project, I was excited because I have known Tiffany since high school, and we went through a part of high school dancing together in our marching band’s colorguard & winterguard. She is a beautiful dancer, and a wonderful soul; eager to dance, and ready for whatever I threw at her.

I asked her to dance barefoot on the grass; dance in pointe shoes on the cement. I asked her to picture herself in different scenarios; to dance for specific people in her life.

I asked her to let go.

I asked her to let go of perfect technique. Let go of how things look. And let her spirit fill the moves.

Letting go, I think, is vital to dance because it allows our true selves to come out in our dance. It allows each extension, each step, each breath, and each movement to be from something else deep down inside of us. We are no longer thinking about what we are doing, we are just doing. And from that an energy emanates from us, from our souls.

My goal is to capture that life, that energy that comes through. Because it is who we are deep in the core of us, and when we see it come through in dancing, it’s like magic.

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When I first began this project, I knew I wanted to photograph dancers. I knew that I wanted to photograph them differently than I had seen in the past. Maybe not in a completely revolutionary way, but in a way that meant something to me. In a way that would show how it felt to dance. Like what Tiffany said above, it’s much like a fantastic conversation – you feel energized, smitten and in love. I want to continue to explore this, and to share with you all my discoveries in capturing this energy in images.

I do hope you enjoy these images of Tiffany, dancing her heart out, letting go & just being. :)

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Be sure, there are much much more dancers to come. You can also check out the last dancer I photographed, Emily.

a dancer’s soul . emily.

October 15, 2010

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For some time now, I have wanted to photograph dancers. Dance was like one of those things that hovers in your life; for me, it was always, always a passion. Growing up, there wasn’t a moment I didn’t want to become a ballerina, or dancer of some sort. I used to watched the Nutcracker almost every year live, as well as watch it on PBS, where there would be no talking for hours, and finally when I switched the channel, I found it strange to hear people speaking all of the sudden. I was never able to take classes when I was young because my family couldn’t afford it, so I would simply rely on day dreaming, putting on home “performances” and watching others dance. But that passion never died.

As I grew older and gravitated towards photography, I always had dance in the back of my head. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to dance full out for my own benefit, but that’s a post for another time. As my passion for photography grew, I always held dance there, even when I named my photography business. It has always had a hold on me, like a magnet.

I love photography because I love being able to show people how I see the world, and how things make me feel. I love dance because to me, it’s a way to feel free, to let yourself go, to visually interpret music. Dancers dance for so many different reasons, but as any artist, it’s a means to communicate, and get things out of their body that they may not be able to say through their mouths. Because of my two great passions, it was only natural they would combine at some point. And that point has arrived.

I met Emily only this year, but I’ve seen her dancing for much longer than that through the recitals at my dance studio. Emily is a wonderful spirit, full of life and energy on top of being a beautiful dancer. I knew I wanted to photograph her to capture that – to capture why she dances, and the dancer’s soul that she has. I didn’t want to just capture how amazing her leaps are (which are amazing), or how dynamic her dancing is. No, dance is so much more than that. Dance is a voice. Dancing not only involves the large moments when you are leaping, but the little moments in between. When you take a breath. When you gather yourself. When you show the world just what you want to say.

When you let yourself go.


I am so excited to be sharing this with you all, but these images are only a scratch on the surface for me. I want to dig more, meet more dancers, photograph their stories, their dancing, their souls. I want to explore that in photographs. And I want to share it with the world.