Not saying I haven’t been kicked out of a few places here and there in my youth but this would have been the first time I had ever been kicked out of such a prestigious event. Instead it turned into a photograph that pretty much changed the course of my life.
A month or so previous I had walked right through and past security at the Moscow Circus in the Winnipeg Arena and had been able to photograph the whole event right from the arena floor while my friends and family watched from the stands above with my empty seat beside them. I was able to take close-up pictures of Russian bears, Cossacks on horseback and much more. No one had asked me for my credentials and so friends thought I should try the same thing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Christmas Nutcracker.
The backstage was crowded with activity. I had walked briskly through security with a suit and flashy camera case and now was checking the lighting and trying to absorb everything that was going on in the cacophony of sound and vision around me. It wasn’t long before the stage manager (who apparently knew everyone) confronted me and asked me who I was photographing for. Upon discovering my purpose (testing a new film with a medium format camera) he ushered me towards the exit whereupon we made a deal that I could photograph but would absolutely not publish anything until I had brought all my photographs in to the ballet office for their approval. This suited me fine because I had no intention of publishing anything. I was just some guy with a love for photography.
Dancers it turns out have to be incredibly careful with images that are allowed out because their artistic reputation can be significantly impacted both positive and negative.
So I was allowed to stay backstage and film. I was using a medium format motorized Pentax camera with a 400 ASA colour film I was testing at the time. Most of my photographs that evening were shot from the side curtain looking into the ongoing performance. This particular photograph however was taken as I looked over my shoulder at the light falling from the performance on to some dancers who were sitting on one of the props waiting for their upcoming scene. I swiveled and just began shooting the backstage characters in that gorgeous light falling from the main stage.
This was my favourite shot. It amused me to see dancers at rest, the middle dancer in a resting position that likely would be painful for most of us. I loved the rich greens and textures of the cloth that surrounded them.
Several months later I brought in a number of my photographs as per our agreement. As luck would have it they were looking for a photographer for the following year and were evaluating several photographers. Long story short for the next year I was hired as official photographer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company. It was a part-time position that allowed me to focus on other commercial and portrait opportunities as well and took me full-time /full force into the photographic portion of my career.
Since then I’ve photographed all over the world in various capacities. I’ve been grateful for the transition from large to mid and now micro cameras. Often in my travels I find that my 35 mm equipment is too big and bulky to give me the mobility and unobtrusive entry into many situations. The smaller equipment I have used however has not quite given me the options for quality and creativity that I have been waiting for and so I am looking forward to seeing what the folks at Light have come up with in the new L 16.
May they give us new opportunities to capture and be captured by the world in surprising ways.