Also read an exclusive interview with him:
Before Dancers After Dark you had extreme success with New York Times best-seller,Dancers Among Us. How did you initially become interested in photographing dancers?
I was drawn to dancers because of their athleticism and how dynamic I could make the photograph. I played baseball in college and I felt like I was taking what I did as an athlete and combining it with my work as a photographer. And once I started to work with dancers I started to realize how much more athletic they are than your average athlete. There are a lot of parallels between the self-discipline and repetition training, and the idea of not giving up.
What brought about the particular settings you chose to shoot in, for Dancers After Dark?
There’s a lot of vulnerability in these photos. They’re real, they really happened. They’re really illegal and we were very open to the elements. To the police, the passersby’s, everything. And yet over 300 dancers volunteered from some of the top dance companies in the world, all over Europe and America. And that says a lot about their willingness to put themselves at risk because they understood that this book was going to be a celebration of them and their hard work, dedication, passion and fearlessness. And that’s why they were willing to do it.
What is the overarching themes or messages you hope to share with these incredibly raw and stunning series of photos?
The purpose of Dancers After Dark is to celebrate the extremely hard work and tenacity it takes to be successful at anything. And if you see a dancer’s body, you see etched into their muscles thousands upon thousands of hours of the training it took to get there. They are a living embodiment of what we all strive for, which is single-minded focus towards a passion and I wanted to celebrate that. Another big element is the fearlessness. In order to pursue a career as a dancer you really have to be fearless. There’s not a lot of monetary reward, there’s no guarantee of success, and your career ends when you’re very young. And yet, you go for it anyway and put in every ounce of physical and emotional energy you have into pursuing your passion.
My favorite quote in life is “Leap and the net will appear.” And that is completely embodied in this work. We got out there and we took a risk, we didn’t know what were going to get. All these photographs are a combination of spontaneous and serendipitous moments. The fearlessness is embodied in these images.
How did the dancers prepare themselves for the photoshoots in the public?
They knew in concept they would be taking their clothes off, and that’s all they knew. In every single photograph you are seeing them have this experience for the first time in their lives. When I did Dancers Among Us, a lot of those dancers had been photographed before. This has never been done before. Not only do you have the vulnerability of just being naked, which in itself is very revealing and raw, but then to put them in a very public setting and to have to do it repeated times to get the photos right, all the while worrying if the police are going to come and stop us or if the public is going to come and scream at us, it was an extremely vulnerable position. But what was fascinating is that once they would get into the moment and start posing, they then became a performer on stage. They were calm and relaxed. And as soon as it was over they were crazy again.
Your photo shoots span across multiple cities in Europe and the US. What was it like to film in these open, crowded, urban settings?
The filming process and the reactions from the public depended on the night. There were times when people were respectful. But the reactions were also not always what you would predict. For example, the city where I had the most passersby getting upset and angry at us was Paris. On multiple occasions, we had beer bottles thrown at us and angry rants and threats for the simple fact that we were shooting nude photos. Whereas somewhere like Berlin, Germany where you might expect to be a little more conservative, they were very open-minded and cool about the process. There’s one photo in the book on the very last page, it’s not a dance photo, it’s a photo of all of them running into position. And that shows you what the scene was really like seconds before the picture was taken.
This series has been immensely successful and well received. What are you working on next?
I am incredibly proud of Dancers After Dark and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. The next book I’m working on is about tiny dancers, kids. And once again that is going to celebrate not only childhood, but the incredible work these kids and their parents put in. These kids often work 6 hours a day, are homeschooled, and they drive all to competitions. It’s not an easy life. But they are dedicated to it and it is their passion.