As they commit their lives to performance, dance and bodily expression, dancers and performers are completely in tune with their bodies, which makes them the perfect subjects for London-based photographer Gerardo Vizmanos.
Focusing on the idea of movement rather than movement itself – “often, the dancers are not moving when I photograph them”, he confesses –, he also explores themes like youth, desire, hesitation and the unknown through his young subjects, usually transitioning from dance school to the professional world. In this new series, the Spanish photographer has taken the opportunity to shoot a handful of students from London’s Rambert School – Alex Mulcahy, Tim Firmin, Harri Eifert, Harry Wilson and Seb Parker – through which he also explores himself.
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Your relationship to the male body and its movement, especially that of performers and dancers (professionals who work precisely with the moving body) makes your work unique. After all these years portraying young dancers and performers, how do you feel your relationship with the body has changed and evolved?
My work is focused on the body with special attention to aspects relating to movement. Since I started working on photography, this has been an important part of my work. Many of my friends are dancers, and by working with some of them, I’ve got in touch with many others in different parts of the world. I photograph male dancers because it’s a part of my daily life.
At first, I was more focused on the aesthetic of the body and in capturing the idea of the movement – I say ‘the idea of movement’ more than the movement itself; often, the dancers are not moving when I photograph them. I use their moves to get inspired. In my oeuvre, I’m very interested in working with people who have committed their lives to exercise their body from a very early age (like dancers). They become subjects by making performance a central part of their lives. I usually photograph people who are in the transition from school to professional practice, at a time where they become adults but they don’t know what it means yet. With them, I address themes like youth, strength, doubts, uncertainty, dreams, fear and other similar ideas that I use to explore myself too.
Before, I used to work on single-day shootings, and now, I try to work with the same people more regularly, thus creating a more personal connection. And also, I try to portray them in their spaces, like in these series, where I photographed them in the school space where they usually work. Other days, but with the same people, I have worked in their homes or outdoors, always trying to recreate aspects of a reality I can imagine possible.
What about your perception of the body? Is there any area you like to focus your gaze on for artistic reasons, for example?
Every person is different and depending on how they move and how we connect, I will focus on one part of the body more than other. But if there are any parts I often pay attention to are the neck and the hands. I photograph almost everybody’s hands I work with and I like to set them myself.
For this new series, you portrayed some students from Rambert School in London, which you believe is one of the most interesting right now, together with renowned Juilliard school in NYC. Why is that? What sets them apart from the rest?
I have worked with students from both Juilliard and Rambert. Both are fantastic schools with great programmes, and in both schools, the students are encouraged to explore and collaborate, they’re very creative. The education they get is about cultivating artists, not just dancers, in order to explore other facets of their artistry. Students at Juilliard and Rambert are highly creative individuals that are really in tune with their bodies and like to express that through different mediums, including photography. Now, while I’m living in London, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work often with dancers from Rambert School.
Photography and performance/dance have gone hand-in-hand throughout history. One is defined by its stillness while the other is characterized by movement. How do you find a midpoint between the two? How do you convey movement through non-moving images?
There has been a long relationship between dance and photography. Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg or Balanchine and George Platt Lynes are two good examples among the large number of visual artists who have been inspired by dance. Personally, I’m inspired by movement, but I don’t consider my work as dance photography. More than capturing dance, my work is about exploring emotions and ideas inspired by the idea of movement. I like to talk about the idea of movement more than only about movement.
Sometimes, I say that movement is an idea while dance is one of the ways to express it. We can capture movement through still photography even without knowing if there was movement or not at the time of taking it. Movement is an impulse arising from our inside, something that needs to be expressed with the stroke of a brush or with the image captured by a camera or by dancing with the body. Many artistic fields are valid to express the notion of movement. I think this is why the connection between performance and other arts is usually inspiring.
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