Recently I was pondering what my first-ever photo book was and I’m pretty sure it was Lois Greenfield’s Breaking Bounds, first published in 1992. I was in high school at the time and an avid dance student so, of course, I was interested in all depictions of dance. Still am, really! For that reason, I chose Lois Greenfield (b. 1949), who is best known for dance photography and particularly her ability to convey motion through still images, as this week’s artist.
Lois began her career as a photojournalist in Boston. A few years in, however, she had the opportunity to photograph a dance rehearsal and she switched focus to capturing dancers in her studio, “investigating movement and its expressive potential.”
When Lois talks about her work, she shares that she uses strobe lighting with a short flash duration, shooting one frame at a time. When you look at what she manages to capture in that one frame, I think you’ll see how extraordinary that is.
“The goal [of the work] is to confound and confuse,” she says, “and the images are hyper-real because there’s no Photoshop. It’s all just 1/2000th of a second or 1/250th…
“It’s such a split second that we can’t register those moments. People who come to the studio and watch don’t see the moment. I don’t see the moment but, after all these years, I think I’ve trained my eyes to see the moment.”
“The ostensible subject of my photographs may be motion, but the subtext is Time,” Lois shares in her bio. “A dancer’s movements illustrate the passage of time, giving it a substance, materiality, and space. In my photographs, time is stopped, a split second becomes an eternity, and an ephemeral moment is solid as sculpture.”
Traditionally, Lois shot on film with a Hasselblad (medium format). She says doing so provided the opportunity to shoot 12 images and then pause for a moment of reflection while changing her film roll. Now that she shoots digitally, she monitors the results via computer.
Many of her early images weren’t even cropped, which include any images with a black background or with black borders.
In addition to working directly with dance companies that include Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, American Ballet Theatre, and my personal favorite, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, her work has been featured in numerous ads and exhibited worldwide.
To learn more about Lois and her work, please visit her website or check out the video below, in which she discusses her inspirations, style, and process, and the anticipatory nature of dance photography:
What do you think? Is this your first time encountering Lois Greenfield’s work? Any revelations from the images or video?