Last week I introduced you to one of my college documentary photography professor Viktor Kolář, and mentioned our semester-long project. Well, because it’s fun to dig up old work (ca. 1998), I decided to share some with you.
As I mentioned in the prior post, I’d originally planned to photograph people on public transit—something I was too uncomfortable to bring into being—so instead I contacted local dance schools. Having danced for 15 years and practically lived in a studio growing up, it was a comfortable environment for me.
My 5 years of French lessons, the language of dance, also proved instrumental to the project. When I first called local studios, my Czech language skills were too poor for me to convey what I was trying to accomplish. In a moment of inspiration, I switched to French and convinced one poor teacher in a remote part of Prague to allow me to visit and photograph her students.
For a few weeks I visited Mme. Alena’s studio to document her lessons. She’d made it very clear that she wanted me to focus on the girls and not herself but I managed to get her in frame on occasion because I was interested in the relationship between teacher and student(s). The girls were preparing for their annual revue and spent much of their time honing and perfecting their performances.
My time at the studio was brief but enjoyable. Before the semester concluded and I left Prague, I printed a bunch of photos and took them to the studio for the girls and their families. All were shot on film with natural light, uncropped, and most likely taken with a Canon EOS Elan.
In my journal on May 14, 1998 (yes, I still have it!), I wrote in French: I will miss Alena and her dance school. I really enjoyed Alena and the girls, and practicing my terrible French. The photos are rather good, not perfect, but I’ve been practicing and getting better.
I am very proud of myself for managing with [my boyfriend’s] help to find a Czech dance studio, to go there by myself and take decent photos, to converse in French while there, and to get to know some real Czechs here in Prague.
There you have it. My long-ago first documentary photography project, what I could find of it. I hope that added a fun dimension to last week’s post about my professor.