Rimbaud Patron. Scottish Ballet

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Sophie Martin with Victor Zarallo

My interest in photography grew while using a point and shoot Lumix camera during my teen years while on holidays. I started to show greta interest in photography but I really got into it when my parents offered me my first Dslr, a Nicon D5000, for Christmas. That’s when I started to teach myself photography through magazines, videos and any related articles I could find.

I was living and studying ballet in London, going out with my camera and making a great lot of trials and errors. I was an enthusiast shooter with not much experience and what a better place than London to try your hands at different shooting styles. With ballet being a very important part of my life, ballet photography was always in the back of my mind but I never did much of it until I met other ballet dancers that were also photographers in their ballet companies. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I photographed my friends at school during rehearsals and whenever I could to improve and get better photos every time.

And that’s when I joined Scottish Ballet, four years ago.  The company was very helpful and willing for me to photograph the other dancers in rehearsal and on stage. I was grabbing every opportunity to shoot the company and I was getting good results but I had quite some trouble with the D5000 to get sharp results in very low light situations. So I decided to upgrade my kit and I never looked back from it.

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Eve Mutso in Motion of Displacement

Ballet is as much an art as it is a sport. As a photographer you want to show the beauty of the movement combined with the technicality of the steps and the expressions that has to go through to an audience for them to be moved by what they see. Capturing all this at once can be very tricky. Being a dancer at Scottish Ballet is the best advantage I could wish for when photographing the company. It means that every production I shoot, which each has its own style: classic, contemporary or neo classical – I previously learn, rehearse and perform in it in the studios and on stage. I then know what to expect, how the movement goes, how the dancers are going to use the space and how they are going to move, the relation between each character and what the choreographers want to express through their piece. I know the movement as I have performed it and that gives me a great head start on what I look for and what I want to photograph.  That also means that I often have to jump from being a dancer to being a photographer. As I am perform,ing in the productions I have to find moments in a ballet when I have enough time  offstage to go at the front of the auditorium and start shooting my fellow dancers. My camera always has to be ready to shoot and so do I.  The shooting conditions are very particular and the D4s is great  at getting the perfect sharp shot. The movement is really fast and the lighting very low making for a hard shot to get. The great frame rate and the amazing ISO capabilities are the perfect match to capture that moment of a body breaking through the air, bending in a particular way or just that expression that tells a great story.

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Scottish Ballet in rehearsals

Combing dance and photography is what I wanted to do and with the support of Scottish Ballet I am now achieving that goal.  I do the two things that I enjoy the most and I started selling photos to the dancers who are happy to get these memories. I am now planning with the company an exhibition to open ballet to a larger audience and to present them with the processus of bringing a production from rehearsals in the studios to the stage.

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Sophie Martin in Swan Lake