Photographic Learning From My First Visit To The Ballet

Northern Ballet have produced Jayne Eyre (seen here), which I went to see at Leeds Grand last night.

The last time that I read Jayne Eyre was over twenty years ago, which meant that I had no recollection of the storyline. However, the ballet was so well choreographed and performed that it came back to me scene by scene.

I felt sad and cried, I felt angry, and I laughed. Such a moving and convincing performance.

My seat was in the upper balcony, slightly to the left of stage and that meant I had a good perspective for some technical analysis.

Choreography uses the same visual, placement and use of space that is used in photography.

Diagonals were often used, either with a group of dancers (front corner to opposing rear corner), or by two characters to create visual tension with my eyes moving back and forth between the two.

Foreground, mid-ground and background were used effectively. There were a couple of scenes in which there was a lot of movement across the whole of the available space, but not often. When the action took place in the background then there may have been one performer in the foreground. This gave a sense of space and perspective.

There were other occasions when the performance was taking place at the front of stage, and those dancers in the background barely moved. They provided a visual context to the rest of the action.

Use of scenery and props were relevent and limited to when there was a need to alert the viewer to a change of setting.

It was also clear that costume and colour was relevent to the social status/age/emplorment and personality of the character, as well as reflecting the change of social status for Jayne.

Key learning

Make use of space by allowing it to be there.

Emotion is portrayed by body language, clothing, lighting and props.

Make use of background appropriately – if the action/subject is in the background then have a touch of visual contrast in the foreground and vice versa.

Distractions – does it need to be in the scene. If it doesn’t then remove it or change perspective if possible. There are some occasions where distractions can be deliberately used to create tension, confusion and movement.

Props can be used to create the setting, to demonstrate personality (portrait/fashion) and to divide available space so the eye is drawn in to one part of the photo.

Lighting can be used to create mood, to alter emotion engagement, to highlight, to obscure, and can be used in an abstract manner to provide a hint to the viewer without being directive.

Planning. Having a photographic eye is no different from choreography in visual or performance arts. There are times when performance is ad lib as in photography, but often having a plan, even if it’s just a vision in the mind can ensure that a photograph is taken just at the right moment.

As I begin to move into making the political/social themed photography that I want to make, I am gaining more of an understanding about the necessity of planning. Test photos, beginning a project then realising it isn’t right, going out with my camera and taking photos for fun – these are as important as mind maps and written exploration of ideas. These ways of planning are a photographers dress rehearsal.

My first experience of ballet was mesmerising. Viewing the world through the eyes of a photographer is becoming more natural.

mde

 

13 Replies to “Photographic Learning From My First Visit To The Ballet”

  1. What a brilliant exposition of the links between one art form and another. I’m going to have to go back and reread this in the morning.

    Incidentally, although seeing ballet “for real” is the best, I’ve been finding the live screenings held in cinemas from the RSC, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera in NY offer a fantastic means of accessing theatre, opera and ballet that I couldn’t otherwise get to (and much cheaper). Check out the Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a witty, fast-moving and moving production: so good we had to buy the DVD!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The RSC opportunity sounds wonderful. There isn’t anywhere near me that I can get to to do so. I’m an hour’s bus ride from my nearest town and last bus home is 8.20. however I’ll start checking Sky Arts for ballet.

      Like

  2. I really enjoyed going through your thoughts Richard and as always am impressed by your observations and the way you connected the two. The basic elements of design always remain the same and it’s fascinating how it is used in so many fields differently but effectively. Great article Richard. I love the way you are exploring and becoming more and more comfortable with your camera. The greatest gift is exploring and experimentation and one should never cease to do that. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

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