Full body move­ment

Ele­gance in the way that some­one holds their fig­ure and ex­tends their limbs is al­ways a crowd-pleaser, as this dancer im­age shows

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

Ele­gance in the way peo­ple move their limbs is one of those qual­i­ties that res­onates very clearly and eas­ily with view­ers, with­out anal­y­sis. We have a nat­u­ral ap­pre­ci­a­tion of it, and it’s some­thing ev­ery­one is at­tracted to. Cap­tur­ing it, on the other hand, doesn’t come so eas­ily, be­cause in the flow of some­one mov­ing – even some­thing as ob­vi­ous as walk­ing – the grace­ful mo­ments hap­pen be­tween oth­ers that are or­di­nary, or just plain awk­ward. Also, some peo­ple are nat­u­rally grace­ful, oth­ers clumsy.

For a pho­tog­ra­pher this means pay­ing close at­ten­tion and re­act­ing very quickly, and if you keep this as one of your goals – wait­ing for the grace­ful pos­tures and not be­ing sat­is­fied with the or­di­nary ones – your suc­cess rate will be higher. This works in ex­actly the same way as look­ing for a dis­tinc­tive ex­pres­sion over a flat one.

Ele­gance isn’t lim­ited to spe­cial oc­ca­sions, even though I made it eas­ier on my­self in this ex­am­ple by choos­ing a dance. Ges­tures and pos­tures in daily life can also be el­e­gant – or not. Here’s the great Richard Ave­don dis­cussing move­ment, and by im­pli­ca­tion its oc­ca­sional ele­gance: “One of the most pow­er­ful parts of move­ment is that it’s a con­stant sur­prise. You don’t know what the fab­ric is go­ing to do, what the hair is go­ing to do, you can only con­trol it to a cer­tain de­gree – and there is a sur­prise. And I re­al­ize when I pho­to­graph move­ment, I have to an­tic­i­pate that by the time it has hap­pened – oth­er­wise it’s too late to pho­to­graph it. So there’s this ter­rific in­ter­change be­tween the mov­ing fig­ure and my­self that’s like danc­ing.”

Lord of the dance

This was a Chi­nese dance, in which sleeve ex­ten­sions are flung out ev­ery so often by the per­former. In fact, I was shoot­ing a video, but de­cided also to shoot stills, as I was in­trigued by the dif­fer­ences in ap­proach. The set­ting was an old court­yard man­sion, which on an over­cast day had won­der­fully smooth top-light­ing, and I shot from be­hind the dancer so that at­ten­tion would be on her body move­ment, undis­tracted by her face. I also kept her just in the shade so that her fig­ure would be back­lit through the ma­te­rial of the dress.

The idea was to keep it graph­i­cally sim­ple. The video fairly well took care of it­self, and just needed to be framed so that it would con­tain all her move­ments, which went from pen­cil slim to a wide reach left and right. I kept the same cam­era po­si­tion for the still shots, with the idea of shoot­ing many and se­lect­ing later.

There were al­most 80 frames from nearly three min­utes of shoot­ing, and they caught a high pro­por­tion of grace­ful mo­ments. There were lots of con­tenders, but I chose this one for its com­bi­na­tion of ele­gance of move­ment, and the fact that it cap­tures the in­stant at which the dancer flings her arms wide and her sleeves are fully ex­tended – the dis­tinc­tive el­e­ment of this par­tic­u­lar dance. Else­where I’ve writ­ten a lit­tle dis­mis­sively about this shoot-ev­ery­thing­choose-later way of work­ing, but I think it was jus­ti­fied here, be­cause I wasn’t fa­mil­iar with all the moves, and didn’t have the time to watch lots of re­hearsals.

I shot from be­hind the dancer so that at­ten­tion would be on her body move­ment, undis­tracted by her face

A Chi­nese dance per­formed in an old man­sion of­fered a choice of de­lib­er­ately grace­ful po­si­tions In all, there were 78 frames, al­most like a flip book, and at least half of them were worth con­sid­er­ing

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