Dancers of the Colorado Ballet will be on display in motion at the Wells Fargo Atrium (1740 Broadway, Denver CO, 80274) through April 13th as part of Denver’s “Month of Photography.” Denver-based photographer Allen Birnbach worked with eight dancers for his “Limelight Series,” which features highly stylized, 1940’s Hollywood style lighting, and 1800’s style tint.
Birnbach answered a few questions I had about working with the dancers, what his inspirations are, and how the creative process flows.
Was this project your brainchild?
Yes, the project was my idea. I’d been involved with Month of Photography in the past, showing images from an existing series. This time I wanted to create a new body of work for exhibition, and collaborating with dancers is always top of mind when I have time to create fine art images.
What is it about dancers that draws you to them?
I love working with dancers because I see them as kindred souls. Their focus is to manifest beauty and spirit in the physical form, and they bring great discipline, energy and often sacrifice to that endeavor. As determined and tenacious as any professional athlete, they go beyond the physical to embody beauty and joy on a higher plane. Collaborating with them fills me full.
The photographs feature classical romantic style tutus, but in a variety of presentations – sometimes swept across their faces, sometimes raised above their shoulders. What was the inspiration for using these costumes?
I’ve always loved classic 1920’s Hollywood lighting, and been drawn to the early processes of photography from the 1830’s. My goal was to create a series merging these two elements, so I selected costumes from a number of pieces provided by Shirin Lankarani, Wardrobe Supervisor for Colorado Ballet, and by choreographer Oleg Dedogryuk, who collaborated on two of the sessions. I was also looking for a range in the feel of the final images from romantic to classical to very modern, so line, texture, and value were all important in choosing the costumes.
What is the process of photographing the dancers like? Do you both throw out ideas?
The process is highly collaborative. If I am working alone with a dancer, I start by asking what a dancer feels their strength is, and then we begin the process of making images capturing a movement. The images are created on a Pentax 645D medium format digital camera so I can share the results of each exposure immediately with the dancer. After looking at a new photograph on screen, we talk about how we can refine the look and feel of the image, then shoot again. We work until we both are satisfied with the results, then look for ways to evolve the pose or move on to something else. For two of the sessions, I had choreographer Oleg Dedogryuk on set to bring more ideas to the set. His talent was an incredible addition to the project.
Don’t miss a chance to see the prints; the Atrium is open M-F, 8am-6pm. The prints are available for purchase, with some of the proceeds benefitting Colorado Ballet. Reach Birnbach with questions regarding the prints or to purchase, at 303.333.3316.