During the 1970s I struggled to understand complex feelings. Simultaneously I was drawn to activities that provided platforms for self-expression that took advantage of the same complex thoughts; sexual awakening, freedom of expression, addiction and body acceptance. A journey towards self-acceptance through self-expression is not unique to me, nor unique to that time. Along with immersing myself in acting and dancing I found solace in photography. Candid images of people fascinated me, and still do.
As an eager photographer, I wielded my SLR Nikon camera as if I was on a fashion shoot. Seeking to capture images that were sexy and alluring, like the ones featured in After Dark and Interview magazine. I savored magazines like those that featured bold pictorials. Images that celebrated sexual exploration, showing as much skin as possible, were those I returned to often. In the 1970’s these were print only publications that exposed me to limitless possibilities of expression. Not surprisingly, my photos were well-intentioned copies at best.
I knew my images were not unique and yet throughout the 70’s and early 80’s I continued a photographic practice that was informed by patience and repetition. Patience because the images I was copying were often over exposed and out of focus. Each time I was in the dark room my photos revealed bluntly all that I had yet to learn about the mechanics of photography. Repetition I realized was a way to try and retry to capture an original image. So, I kept taking photos and assessing each one hoping that some more dominant aesthetic emerged that was mine. I never got there.
I’m in awe, and envious, of photographers that have honed a photographic point of view that is undeniably recognizable when you see their photos. Many of them work in dance and include RJ Muna, Lois Greenfield, Robbie Sweeny, Marty Sohl, Kegan Marling and Pak Han. These artists make up a short list of photographers that uniquely highlight their subjects.
Each issue of In Dance features gloriously good dance images and this month photographer Pak Han talks with Sima Belmar to reveal how he found his way to documenting dance and is furthering his craft that specializes in street photography. To compliment recent tips on lighting design and videography, we reached out to Kegan Marling to provide tips to consider when engaging a photographer. Kegan writes, “In general, capturing a show can be high-stress – there’s one chance for the photographer to catch the action and they usually haven’t seen the work in advance.” This sentiment rings true for those critiquing dances, too.
Over the first months of 2020 shows like the Grammys, Golden Globes and Oscars have continued to prompt conversations about the tired format of award shows. First time writer for In Dance, Bhumi Patel takes on this very important topic and states that, “We are in a time of contradictory desires — one to lose ourselves in the magic of glitz and glam and one to create equity in the performing arts.” With the Bay Area’s own complex relationship to acknowledging the best in dance this topic will continue to resonate and rile. Go see for yourself at the free community event on March 23 where the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards will announce and honor the latest awardees.
Instead of primarily being known as the year of the Rat, I’m going to name 2020 as a year for more participation. Read more, see more, vote more, and please share more of your unique perspective to ensure that what you believe to be true flourishes.