This past weekend I had a remarkable experience: The People To Come, a participatory dance project by A Canary Torsi, a NYC dance company. In a nutshell, a group of dancers draws inspiration from user submissions of portraits, texts, and other images that are gathered online and on-site. They then each create and rehearse a 19-minute solo onstage, in front of the audience, and move to a second stage immediately following and perform the solo. The stages are adjacent to each other. The audience is encouraged to move about, grab a drink or snack at the makeshift bar, leave, come back, etc. Each performance is four hours long. Yanira Castro, the choreographer and mad genius behind the project, recently staged it in Brooklyn, NY at The Invisible Dog Art Center.
I am fortunate to know Yanira and her family, otherwise I might not have known about the project. While my wife is a former modern dancer and we used to be very active in that scene, we rarely go to performances these days.
I submitted two pieces for the dancers’ consideration: both portraits of my son. The first submission was used three times on opening night–Yanira encouraged me to post more. I chose a second photograph that I thought had some mystery, and it was also used. In fact, the night we attended, which was also the closing night, we saw our son’s portraits used several times–and also a drawing he submitted while he was there. Seeing my photographs of him, and his drawing, pinned up in front of a dancer who is then creating movement and gesture based on that two-dimensional object fascinated me and, of course, drew me very closely into the performance, which is the point, I suppose. It was truly participatory.
I brought a Leica M4 with a Canon 50mm 1:1.4 LTM lens (1950s-era rangefinder lens) and my new (to me, at least) Ricoh GR1.
Roll 1: M4, 50mm Canon 1:1.4, Delta 3200
Roll 2: M4, 50mm Canon 1:1.4, Tri-X (Arista Premium 400) at EI3200
Roll 3: Ricoh GR1 (28mm 1:2.8 fixed lens), Tri-X at 1600 (DX hack)
While I’m sure my wife had a great time at the afterparty, I had an awesome time getting to develop the film that very night.
Delta 3200 is considered a slower film than 3200. I don’t really follow any guidelines other than trying different things and seeing what sticks. I’ve always liked the look of Delta 3200, but I rarely choose to use it because it’s a pretty distinct look. While its grain is extremely pronounced, it does keep some grays that other pushed films don’t. Frankly, it’s just too expensive to use regularly, and I’m quite happy pushing Tri-X instead (and buying it for less than $3 a roll as Arista Premium 400 from Freestyle). I’m glad I shot with it, though. It gave a distinctive look to some distinctive captured movement. I developed it in Rodinal per the Delta box’s instructions: 33 minutes with minimal agitation. I did a 30-second initial agitation, then left it alone.
I was surprised at how smooth the Tri-X at 3200 looked with that subject matter. There is less gray, but the skin tones look less crunchy than on Delta 3200. I developed it in Rodinal also, for 11 minutes, with 30 seconds initial agitation, then a gentle tip back-and-forth every minute, per the directions on my Compard R09 One Shot (a contemporary packaging of Rodinal).
The Ricoh GR1 gave a totally new look. I had an already-DX-hacked roll of Tri-X at 1600, so I shot that. I was losing stops on the lens and on the film compared to shooting with the Leica, so I was really interested in how the movement would “play” differently on this roll. I developed this one last, in HC-110 dilution B, for 12 minutes.
The light in the space had a large range. The “rehearsal” stage was brightly lit by fluorescents in troughs. The performance stage used bright footlights which cast unusual shadows, not just on the dancer but on the walls as well. The light in the room went from bright (head-on into the lights) to black (the corners of a dark space). Each roll stood its own in exposure range, as you would expect, and because I didn’t meter each shot, I actually got quite a range of looks; some with the audience very dark, some more balanced, as you can see above.
I would be guilty of gross neglect if I did not mention the amazing music and sound that accompanied the performances. If I had a blog called “David Makes Music” I would gush about the combination of amplified voices and sounds, samples, and analog/digital electronic stuff that engulfed the space. The group is a collective called Bumpr and they perform sporadically, at least from what I was told by a couple of members to whom I spoke afterward. The similarity that immediately sprang to mind is Dead Voices on Air. Sometimes ambient, sometimes purposeful, quite, aggressive, exciting, and often surprising, with a sung “Happy Birthday” (for the choreographer) thrown in. They even enlisted audience members to gather around a microphone and sing along to cue cards. The score was tightly controlled despite the guise of improvisation. It was really impressive.
You can see the entire set of 44 photographs on flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidbivins/sets/72157634439217686/
Love how you’ve captured the intense emotions on the faces and the moves of the dancers. Very well done. And considering that the situation was poorly lit (apart from the stages, as you’ve mentioned) the metering is spot on. There’s just enough light and detail in the background to give the viewer a feel of the environment. I can hear the music in my head when I look at these photographs. Excellent work.