This shoot was a bit different than my typical dance shoot. Jordan (dancer) and her mom, Judie, wanted to do a mix of dance and senior portrait. Though I've never done something like that before, it was a challenge I was more than happy to take on. If you have worked with me, you know transparency and communication is something I hold very dearly to my heart. I told them my main focus is dance photography, and we talked about the shoot in a group chat for weeks before the shoot, to make sure Jordan looks her best for such an important moment in her life.
Since they drove 7 hours to Chicago to shoot with me, I thought the appropriate location will be the world famous Cloud Gate...or as the locals call it, The Bean.
One thing in photography that is not quantifiable, is the ability of the photographer to relate and communicate with the subject. Having worked with many young dancers, I know sometimes they are a bit shy and a little intimidated to speak up. I assure Jordan this is a team work, and she can and NEEDS to tell me if something is off.
Jordan is a powerful leaper and one of her favorite technique is the firebird. Music to my ears! It is one of my favorite poses to capture. As you can see from the final image, she looks incredible. Jordan did her job, and it's up to the photographer to capture her at the height of her jump and position ourselves to make sure she LOOKS even higher than reality. The high attitude seems like an obvious choice after the firebird, and her foot and her lines are incredible.
With the portrait, I'm going to admit, I'm not the flashest portrait photographer. Instead of using tons of props, like smoke bomb, or prisms or fairy lights, which will be out of style in a few weeks, I focus on the person. I wanted her to be engaging, and I wanted her personality to come through.
This set of images were taken at the Lurie Gargen at one of my favorite spots. The greenery really makes her white leotard pop. Now, I personally love dark and dramatic images. A lot of times I intentionally darken the images to create a moody effect. It is however, not everyone's cup of tea. The images shown are actually from round 2 of editing. Judie expressed concerns about the editing, and I went back and made sure it was to her liking. Being a professional, means the clients come first. I was more than happy to make the adjustments.
The image with the pointe shoes was an impromptu set up. Judie and Jordan had the idea to scatter the shoes on the ground, while it would have worked out really well in a studio setting...during an outdoor shoot, it didn't quite have the same effect they had in mind. So I made the suggestion of having Jordan lay down on the bench and use the shoes to form a semi circle around her. I love the way it turned out. Anyone who knows anything about ballet, knows how important the pointe shoes are. It takes years of training to just be able to wear a pair, and with each pair, careful and meticulous and preparation goes into making a pair the dancer's own. Having so many pairs around her, tells the story of her dance journey every ballerina relates to. Also, since I was literally standing over her, the security guard spotted us and told us no professional photoshoots...ironically, the official instagram account of Millennium Park loved one of my images I had shot there a week ago and asked me if they can repost it...of course I said yes. The security was just doing her job, so we packed up and went to the next location...since we got the shot already :P
While The Bean gets all the attention, a hidden gem resides in Maggie Daley Park...the Cancer Survivors' Garden.
If I can only use one word to describe it, it would be tranquil. It is quite astonishing actually, there is a peaceful, open and elegant garden smack dab in the middle in a bustling city of millions.
Jordan has a gorgeous and infectious smile, so I wanted to capture that in a natural way. This is when being the oldest brother of 5 younger sisters come in handy. I've had a life time training of teasing, embarrassing and getting them to laugh. Being a goofball also helps :D Because, contrary to popular belief...you smile with your eyes!
One of the most stunning features of Chicago, is the Chicago River and the architecture surrounding it. Some of the best spots for a photoshoot is actually on the many bridges along the river. Out of the three portraits above...the one on the right (non smiling) is my fav. It's mostly because I don't like smiling in photos. Personal bias aside...there is something about her expression. Depending on the mood of the viewer, it could be interpreted in different ways. I love the melancholy vibe. There is a subtle sadness contrasted with a bit of defiance. Jordan did an incredible job pulling the look off.
It was at this point the shoot was officially over. Now, I'd like to take this opportunity to explain what motivates me to wake up at the crack of dawn, lugging a bunch of gear around, with quite a severe lower back injury, to shoot for hours at a time. Obviously, I'm passionate about dance photography, but the more I shoot and meet amazing people from around the world, it's the experience I'm able to provide for the dancers and their families.
When was the last time you actually actively spent time with your family? I don't mean going on a vacation while everyone's on their phones. I mean, being in the moment. Experiencing a beautiful city, watching your child in their environment, seeing their faces when I show them an image of themselves they absolutely love? That is priceless. That will stay with you for the rest of your life. Things can get extremely hectic when you have a family...work, bills, driving to and from practice, trying to maintain a household...before you know it, they are all grown up, preparing to go to college, leaving an empty room in the house.
I've had numerous parents tell me how much they treasure the experience I was able to provide. The time they get to spend with their children without distraction and the bond they were able to form with them.
This message is also for the photographers out there. We provide more than just images for instagram. You are not just capturing light. Realize what an incredible gift we have. We are able to transport people back in time, to a place, a feeling, that might have been forgotten. This, is why we need to value ourselves. This is what we need to keep in mind while we are with our clients. If you don't believe that, photography is not for you.
Special thanks to Judie (Jordan's mom) for being an awesome, unpaid, photoshoot assistant, wardrobe and make up artist :)
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