Josh Brewster was doing competitive ballroom dance when he began his journey in photography. “I wanted to document my life, my friends and all the shenanigans that we got ourselves into,” he remembers.
Competitive ballroom dance usually happens in a cavernously dark space and Josh quickly discovered he had reached the limitations of his first camera. “The flash fails to penetrate and causes the autofocus to panic for a good two seconds before deciding to take the picture,” he explains. But after an upgrade and a good deal of research, he was soon getting better photos at dance events.
“Fast forward a few years, subtract a slow learning curve, add in a bunch of gear, and we reach a point in the present where I love taking photos of people, especially dancers, in studio photo shoots.”
When asked why dancers in particular, Josh finds many reasons. “There is a tacit understanding that, as photographers and subjects, we rely on each other to create an image. Both photographers and dancers spend years perfecting their skills and timing, each contributing from their respective domains to create something that only ever happens once in a single frame in existence. In the studio environment, the level of collaboration is at its peak. We are there for the sole purpose of creating an image; the only limits are the ones that we set ourselves. The discovery and creation is amazing.”
He adds, “We are used to thinking of dancing as movement. With photography, the movement becomes a stillness that can be viewed independently. In some cases, the still frame cannot easily be reinterpreted back into the original movement. In my mind,” Josh expounds, “these are the best dance images, the ones where you have to ask ‘What were they doing to reach that position and shape?'”
Though fellow dancers may have some pretty good guesses about how young Austin Meiteen (who, interestingly enough, has appeared in our Sunday Snapshot series before) could have arrived at this pose, we can appreciate the strength of line and implied fluidity of this collaboratively captured moment.
The photograph was taken at a local dance studio, though it was not your standard photo shoot. Josh scheduled a ‘tutoring’ session to introduce Austin’s older sister to the basics of studio photography. “I would explain the difference between various light modifiers, and then allow her to decide which ones to use and where to place them. After getting the lights set up, her brother would leap and pose and flip while she captured the movement and got a feel for the studio side of photography. I planned to do little-to-no shooting.”
But after watching, helping, and instructing, Josh’s trigger finger started to feel that photographic itch and he asked to step in for a frame or two. Perhaps ten frames later, he handed the reins back over, knowing that he had grabbed at least one decent shot. “It wasn’t until I was looking at the images on my computer that I realized how lucky I had been,” he says. “My favorite part of the image is Austin’s left index finger; it reminds me of Adam’s hand in Michelangelo’s Creation of Man.
About the Photographer: Josh Brewster is a photographer living in Austin, Texas trying to make his way in the world one photograph at a time. See more of his dance and portrait work at www.joshbrewsterphotography.com
Austin Meiteen is 11 and in Grade 6 at Four Points Middle School where he maintains Honor Roll grades. As a competitive dancer he has accumulated 14 National Championships, including 6 National Champion Solo titles. He is currently the DSUSA national Contemporary, Musical Theatre and Overall solo champion. In March 2011 the Texas State PTA presented Austin with an Award of Excellence, and the US National PTA presented him with an Award of Merit, for his choreography in the Reflections competition. He recently performed in his first professional production with Ballet East Austin in Stand By Me. In addition to dancing approximately 20 hours a week, Austin fits in 2 hours of tumbling training. He has been offered and accepted full academic scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC for the summer of 2012.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.