(Note: Each photographer’s name, photo project and book is hyperlinked to the relevant website. The link appears in dark brown but may not be obvious on your screen. Please click if you are interested to explore further.)
In a recent post named “Saving Ballet” on his blog “A Ballet Education,” David King listed a number of excellent and well-known ballet photographers who, thanks to the rigor of their skillful representation of the ephemeral art form and through the efficient propagation on social media, have helped to resuscitate ballet and even cultivated a new audience who would otherwise not become aware of it at all.
Besides the many ballet photography projects, such as Ballerina Project and NYC Dance Project, based in New York, and Ballet Zaider, based in Los Angeles, I would like to name a few photographers in my neck of the woods who are perhaps not so widely appreciated but worth a mention simply because they represent the ballet community where I live: Conrad E. Dy-Liacco‘s photos of dancers at Hong Kong Ballet and Stephanie Ma‘s photos of Hong Kong dancers and dance students.
Outside of the United States, check out the work of Simone Ghera. Ghera is an architect with an interest in dance photography. His pictures connect dance and architecture. With his project Dancer Inside, he toured several major European cities, and has worked with ballet dancers in major iconic buildings in each city he visits (article).
In Germany, I like the ballet photos of, Enrico Nawrath, a former professional dancer turned photographer who shoots for National Ballet Berlin and is known for his works of naked and half-naked portraits of ballet dancers.
Russian photographer Nikolai Krusser is also one of my favorites. I think his onstage and backstage shots of ballets such as Swan Lake and Giselle are so good that they really capture the “ghostlike,” ethereal quality of these “white ballets.” Another photography, a former Kirov (Mariinsky) ballet dancer Stanislav Belyaevsky, is well-known for his photos of Vaganova Academy, which have, among other works of his, wowed ballet students around the world with the beauty and rigor of the Russian dancers’ form and technique.
So far I have mentioned but one female photographer, but here is notable one: Spanish-born former soloist of National Ballet Berlin, Maria-Helena Buckley. The way she captures ballet has a distinct feminine sensitivity and energy to it… hard to explain, but if you are a woman you’d probably detect it right away.
A relatively little known photographer but whose work I love, is Romanian artist Akira Enzeru. I’d use “unusual” and “daring” to describe his work. He uses unconventional concepts, setting and environment for his outdoor ballet shots, the results of which are often surprising and humorous. He also seems to enjoy doing a lot of nude photography, some of which uses ballet dancers as models.
In the United States, most people know about Gene Schiavone through his work for the American Ballet Theater, but equally impressive and perhaps more fluid and spontaneous in style is the work by award-winning photographer Richard Calmes, who have published two volumes of dance photography, “Dance Magic” and “Lines and Leaps.”
Another photographer’s work who may send a warm and fuzzy feeling through your body—and sometimes makes you gasp with disbelief—is that of Jordan Mather. His carefully and painstakingly planned photos of dancers leaping and flying in the air in mostly urban landscapes can be found in his new book “Dancers Among Us.”
Another dance photographer whose work has impressed me a lot is Jesús Armand. The Brooklyn and Boston-based multimedia artist and former contemporary ballet dancer has taken a great deal of single-exposure photos of some of the world’s top ballet dancers. He cleverly used a single, long exposure for each set of ballet movements in order to present the idea of continuous movement rather than a frozen moment in time and space (For photos, see his Kickstarter campaign for Esprit de Corp a year ago).
I’ll be posting another article about dance photography from the viewpoint of our local dance photographer, Stephanie Ma, soon. Stay tuned.