I go by Dancehunter on Twitter, but Photohunter would really be more accurate.
As a dance writer, I'm lost without good photos. I spend a lot of time looking at dance photographs, almost as much as I do writing.
As I approach my third anniversary in this space, I got to thinking about the hundreds of photos I have sent to CultureMap's photo editor Barbara Kuntz, "Saint Barbara" in my book. Now seems a perfect time to write about three Houston dance photographers who continually light up my stories with their fabulous photos.
I first came upon Simon Gentry's work with Jane Weiner of Hope Stone Dance Company. The London-born photographer has lived all over the world, before settling in Houston. Today, he runs The Photobooth on Montrose, which has become a go-to destination for dance happenings, from artsy fashion exhibits to performances. They form a perfect match of wit and talent between a choreographer and photographer.
"Jane was my portal to a world of dance," says Gentry. "I always gravitated towards people and movement. I had no idea moving to Houston, having only shot portrait and fashion in London, New York City and Paris, that I would meet the one person who was looking for a company photographer."
"I had no idea moving to Houston, having only shot portrait and fashion in London, New York City and Paris, that I would meet the one person who was looking for a company photographer."
Gentry has done a fine job of helping to brand the company as an innovative troupe with a lot of personality. His whimsical images from Weiner's Lemonade Stand created a momentum all their own, leading to one fabulous sold out show.
The photographer gets poetic when the subject of dance comes up. "My medium is light and its interruption, the dancer is in fact a moving canvas, constantly changing and shifting, and in doing so interrupting the light," muses Gentry.
"The geometry of dance is the challenge. I move, the dancer moves, and the light is forced to interact with both of us. The framing of whichever moment I choose is the where the technical stops and the art begins. The world makes sense through my lens, movement and light play as I feel they should, leaving me with the challenge of framing and catching the moment."
Lynn Lane recently returned to Houston after living in New York City for many years as an artist/photographer/filmmaker/designer. He's also a choreographer now, as he's part of the creative team for Regifting Lions, Oct. 25-27, with Toni Valle and Catalina Molnari. His work has a distinctive minimalism to it, while some of it is eye candy flashy. In a short time, he's photographed many local contemporary troupes, including Karen Stokes Dance, NobleMotion Dance, Vault and iMEE, to name a few. His distinct and sometimes whimsical portraits of dancers reveal his fashion background and keen sense of design.
"I photograph dance because it's something that I fell in love with as a child, watching performances on the hill at Miller Outdoor Theatre," says Lane. "Nothing captures the essence of the human form better than dance."
Lane's work has a distinctive minimalism to it, while some of it is eye candy flashy.
He isn't big on the "spray and pray/photography lottery" mode. "I take single shots with intent and anticipate the motion that will happen on stage," he says. "I shoot to capture the apex of the moment and the spirit of the performance. Each photo should tell a story that is as strong as the performance before me."
Lane has recently branched out to theater. "The one thing that I have learned from shooting dance is a greater understanding of the importance of story within a single image. It's not just to document the performance, but to be able to share the essence of the piece."
I met Amitava Sarkar at Houston Ballet hanging out at dress rehearsals. Although we often have different opinions on choreography, we can talk dance for hours (and we have). He is now fully ensconced as Houston Ballet's main guy behind the camera.
Sarkar wasn't always behind the lens. After two decades in Information Technology, he totally changed his life, becoming a massage therapist, and then a photographer in 2006. Born in India, Sarkar came to Austin to attend the University of Texas. He is mostly self taught in photography, with some formal training from private institutions.
"Of course, after shooting dance performances, weddings are a breeze."
After Toni Tucci invited him to photograph Ballet Austin, he was hooked. "The experience evoked a hidden passion for dance. It made me want to learn more, and I went at it full blast."
His work has appeared numerous times in Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine and others. Although Sarkar has been photographing Houston dance companies for years now, he has just moved from Austin to Houston this past summer. "There is so much more going on here culturally," insists Sarkar.
Sarkar's training in the movement sciences is a plus. "Since I am a visual person, and a student of the human body, a moving body showcases the mechanics and grace of the human form. Dance is more than athleticism; it also communicates ideas and stories, literal or symbolically."
"Dance and theater have impacted the way I experience space and light. It has influenced my studio (stroboscopic) lighting styles," he says. "My landscape photography and overall manner of composition has been greatly enhanced by the skills honed while capturing dance. Of course, after shooting dance performances, weddings are a breeze."
Sarkar is rarely without his equipment. He's learned the hard way on that front. I suspect that he prefers dance from behind the lens. "Without my camera," he quips, "I would rather skip the show."