Dancers Project

Andrea and David

Andrea and David

The first session with the dancers seemed to go reasonably well. I know that I’m not a ‘jobbing professional’ so I am quite relaxed about having had a session that continues to align my thoughts and allows me to engage with my subjects, enter into a discourse with them about what it is that I’m looking for and assuaging their concerns (not many at all in this case). I still don’t want to ‘get in deep quick and get out with the goods bagged’.

Andrea and David practice many many hours every week, their goal is to become British champions at their age group. Andrea has come from a performance background and instinctively understands about the notion of projected identity that I want to investigate with these portraits. They both understand that when they dance they need to ‘perform’, to deliver a character who is acting out a role before an audience; becoming someone else at the point of performance.

This first session was to introduce me – the photographer – to them. That is the person they knew as John Umney, is now a photographer, part of my performance of developing a character for their benefit. Making this transition will help me not only with the next session, though they seemed perfectly at ease, but also they are going to help me find more dancers to work on this project.

When I arrived at their practice session I took the opportunity to follow them on the dance floor after I had set up a ‘studio’ in one corner of the room. These photographs have a lot of movement – which I knew was going to happen – I think if I do this again I will opt for an even wider lens setting. My next session with them will be after they have competed in an international competition which would have them still with their ‘fake tans’ applied and we will probably use their more sparkly costumes – helping to situate their characters.

I sent them a link to blog-site with my first cut images of the session. Here



4 thoughts on “Dancers Project

    • That’s an interesting idea Catherine – something to think about…… The movement was a ‘settling’ exercise for both them and me. The static poses are what I wanted to work on.

  1. This seems to be shaping up John…the black and white image in the post is very well executed. The notion of projected identity is a fascinating one….in practice most of us spend out lives acting out images of ourselves… with varying degrees of success…the gap between intention and effect (Arbus’s phrase) has been explored by many portrait photographers…the difference with professionals is that it is difficult to see the ‘gap’. They are able to adopt a convincing identity in line with their intent… I was wondering if there is a risk with the dancers that the images may be read as action photographs of them ‘at work’ rather than as portrait studies of assumed identities. Lots to go for. Knowing that you are a fan of Vanessa Winship I assume you have seen her Dancers and Fighters work…here

    • I’m so glad it’s off the ground and running; I’m always a bit nervous about new projects and whether they will get going. Andrea and David are terrific which helps.
      The pose that I want to work is a static pose, not any of the movement shots, the mono shot is one of them (thanks for the compliment btw, it was done because they ‘like’ mono prints!). So, no, I don’t want them to appear as ‘at work’ shots – but definitely ‘in character’.
      And yes, I was aware of Winship’s series – great aren’t they, but I don’t feel any resonances with this work as yet – but who knows before the end, we never really know what the outcome of these projects are do we?

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