UPDATE: If you missed the live webcast last Wednesday, you can catch it again here, at your lesuire…
More years ago than I can remember, I attended a photography lecture by a New York dance photographer whom I very much admired. Afterwards, I went up to speak with her. She was gracious and pleasant and answered all of my silly, gushing questions about photography.
That’s how I met Lois Greenfield.
Shortly thereafter, our paths crossed again when she was directing her first television commercial. It was for Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company. And because another inspiring woman called Arlene Wanetick, who at the time, was a Creative Director with BBDO Chicago and a mutual friend of both Lois and mine, was putting the project together, I was to be Lois’ film editor for the project. Since it was Lois’ transition from the still world to motion, she wanted to be involved in the edit to make sure her vision was properly realized. I would be collaborating with one of my photographic heroes.
I was in the fortunate position of being very aware of the style and tone of her still work, having studied it for years and to make a long story short, we immediately clicked. It was an incredibly gratifying process for both of us.
Oh, and we became great friends.
In the following years, whenever there was a television or film project she was directing, I would go to New York or she would come to me in Chicago and we would repeat the symbiotic collaboration. Editing Lois’ projects was always inspiring and great fun.
From time to time she would let me use her New York studio to make my own photography. It was always such a treat to shoot in the same studio space where so many photographs I had studied over the years were created. I could feel the inspiration all around me.
I’ll never forget the first time. She had called in two very talented dance models for me to photograph. They had been wanting to work with Lois. It was the prefect opportunity for her to give them a sort of audition, with the added benefit for me of having Lois looking over my shoulder, generously lending her expertise to my process.
We had set up the strobe lighting, needed to freeze the dancers in mid-air and I was getting ready to make my first exposure.
“Okay, let’s check your timing,” she said.
Wow. This was the moment of truth.
I had learned that one of the reasons Lois was able to create such captivating images was because she had such a precise eye for releasing the camera shutter at the exact moment the composition of sometimes multiple dancers all lined up, hanging in beautifully intertwined split-seconds of time. She had explained to me in the past, that the moment wasn’t necessarily the peak of a jump or a movement, but sometimes on the way up or down that was most interesting to her.
She always managed find that specific moment, taking in the array of moving limbs and leaps and knowing the exact microsecond when everything reached spacial harmony. Something that looks easy when you see the final still image, but with the speed that the dancers are moving, it’s really quite impressive to watch her capture the perfect moment when it’s moving past you so quickly. Ive seen her do it many times and still, it doesn’t seem humanly possible.
As I stood in Lois’ studio, with a single dancer ready to make her first jump and Lois standing behind me, quietly observing, I was about to find out if I could do this or not.
“Okay…,” I said, as I prepared myself. “One… two… three… JUMP!”
I was focused so intently on the movement. Not looking through the viewfinder, as Lois told me it’s too hard to take in the entire scene before you when you’re looking through the camera. You have to instantly process what is in front of you using as much of your peripheral vision as possible to see more than you thought you were capable of seeing all at once.
Before I could turn to ask Lois how I did on that first test exposure, she very quickly and casually said, “Your timing is perfect. I’ll be in the office if you need anything.”
It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I apparently didn’t suck at this.
I spent the next few hours working with the two dancers, experimenting and collaborating in the most joyful way.
I’ll post some of those photos another time, because this blog isn’t really about me. It’s about Lois.
I’m writing all of this just to illustrate what an impact Lois has had on my own work as a photographer and artist. She has such a joy about what she creates and she’s always been a giving teacher. She’s a great sharer. Constantly reinventing herself over nearly four decades of creating brilliant original work.
And next Wednesday, September 12th at 1pm, New York time (EDT), Maymia Leaf is sponsoring a free online webinar, a behind the scenes look at what Lois does so well, called “The Art and Beauty of Lois Greenfield Dance Photography“.
Here’s the link to sign up if you’re interested. (Use the updated link at the top of this posting to view the recorded webcast.) A rare chance to see the creativity of a great photographer and a great friend of mine.
See you there!