Archive for the ‘Styling’ Category

I sat here for some time, trying to figure out what to write about this session. Not because I had nothing to say, but because I wasn’t sure how to formulate my thoughts into a cohesive manner. I could tell you about what a beautiful dancer Tara is (because she is), or I could tell you about my obsession with ballerinas and pointe shoes (give me a camera and put me in front of a ballerina and I’ll be irrationally happy).

Or I could talk about how these images were a lot of things for me.

Growth, because this was the first time I shot a dance session 90% on film. I learned so much doing this session, about the technique of photographing a dancer like this as well as how I want to approach sessions like this in the future.

And this isn’t like my Movement sessions — this was something else entirely.

This was a small seed, planted in the dirt of an idea, about capturing the beauty of a dancer. I started first with Tiffany’s session (a full blog of which is forthcoming) & Tara’s is my second. When I start projects like this, or have ideas, they usually don’t solidify until I’ve gone through and put myself in the thick of it. Had trials and errors. Experienced and seen what I truly wanted.

To be honest, this idea is still a bit like vapors to me. Capturing the beauty of a dancer? Isn’t that supposedly what photographers are supposed to do anyway? Am I offering anything truly new to the dance photography world? I want to believe I am. Deep down, I know I am.

My voice will solidify as I go, my images will hold meaning and beauty in the way that I want them to. It’ll all come in time. Right now, all I can do is create.

Styling: Susan Yee

/////////////////////// 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