Han Balk. Interview

HAN BALK
ANNA PAVLOVA BALLET PHOTOGRAPHY
CONTEST MAGIC ON STAGE CATEGORY WINNER 2016

Han Balk from The Netherlands is Magic on Stage category Winner of the Anna Pavlova Ballet Photography Contest 2016.
His experience in photography is very diverse – Han Balk began as a sports photographer working mostly with football and mountain bike racing in the nineties. After a long period without shooting Han has turned back into the world of photography that was drastically different by that time….
Han Balk shot several dance events after he “picked up” his camera again, yet he believes himself to be “pretty new into the ballet photography”.
New or not, we are sure about one thing – fresh, vivid, uncommon images of Han Balk have already gained attention and love of the public.

 

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How can you describe your style in photography?
I don’t think I have a specific style and I don’t want to be pinpointed to a specific style either. I do like clean shots with bokeh backgrounds and I really like black and white photography although the majority of my ballet photos are in colour. I always try to be a little different, an unusual point of view or lens, a lot of backlight, lens flare or a slightly different post-processing. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

What are the specifics of working with dancers as models for you?
Working with dancers has two sides. They want to be perfect and expect you to be the same and push the limits. Working together can be high demanding for dancers and photographers. Sometimes a certain movement or jump needs to be taken over and over again. It can be very frustrating when it doesn’t seem to work out. Both need to maintain their concentration and a regular break can clear the sky.

 

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On the other side dancers are the most perfect models on earth. Who am I to tell them how to pose or move? We only need to discuss the result, because some poses look really great in real life but look less great or even strange on photo. But when you see dancers sharing your photo for example on social media, you can tell yourself you did a descent job.

What are the “laws” of ballet photography for you? Do you ever break them? Do they exist at all?
I hear a lot of people say ballet and photography are made for each other. For me ballet and photography have a love-hate relationship. Photography can show the beauty and the grace of ballet far better than video or the human eye, but it can also reveal the imperfections. The slightest timing mismatch in a group of dancers can look real ugly and ruin your photo. A bad timing of the photographer is even worse. When you shoot an on stage performance you only get one chance. So it all needs to fit together to make a nearly perfect photo. So if there’s a law in ballet photography it should read that it all needs to fit together. I explicitly said nearly because I’m never completely satisfied with my own images, there’s always room for improvement.

How do you think your photography will be changing with time?
As I said, there’s always room for improvement and I can live with the idea that I’ll never make the perfect shot. So be it. Nevertheless I keep trying and improve my photos.

What are your professional goals? Who is the dancer of your dream?
I don’t have a timeline or specific goals. I hope the exposure of the Anna Pavlova Ballet Photo Contest give me the opportunity to shoot more ballet on stage, rehearsals and in the studio too.

I do want to try some different techniques, never or hardly ever used in ballet photography. Maybe something for the Anna Pavlova Ballet Photo Contest 2017.

 

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Although I don’t have any specific dancer in mind, I like to shoot some classical ballet too. We have some excellent performers here in the Netherlands, perhaps someday…

Where do you find your inspiration?
Mostly on the internet. Pintrest is a good tool for this; you can make your own online private scrapbook with photos. I don’t want to copy those images, but use them as a starting point for a moodboard. The final result is a combination of several photos on the moodboard. Or even something different because the idea came up during the shoot.

What attracts you more in ballet as a photographer – dancers’ everyday work and routine or the “glittering” performance part?
For me shooting a real great image during an on stage performance is the best. You’ve got one chance, you need to deal with the on stage light and be in the right position. When you work with 2 cameras you can miss some essential shots because you’re just switching and sometimes you’re just in the wrong position. Modern LED lights look really nice for the human eye, but can be a photographer’s nightmare. That’s all in the game.

Your advice to those who are thinking of shooting dance for the first time.
Your camera equipment can never be the limitation. The photographer is the limitation. Learn how it works and get the best out of your equipment. A new, expensive camera or lens doesn’t make better pictures itself. It’s up to you to do this. Just do it, dare to fail and learn from it.

It’s almost impossible to be completely unique, but dare to be different and don’t care about people who don’t like it because it doesn’t look like the majority.

Show your photos to a dancer and ask her/him what you can do to improve your photos can be frustrating but very helpful too.

 

 

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©ANNA PAVLOVA ASSOCIATION. All rights reserved

Darian Volkova. Interview

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]DARIAN VOLKOVA
ANNA PAVLOVA BALLET PHOTOGRAPHY
CONTEST FINALIST 2016

Darian Volkova is a ballet photographer and professional ballet dancer who lives and works in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This city “breaths” with ballet and Darian knows how to feel and let others feel this “breathing” that surrounds her. “Ballet is my native “environment”, says Darian. Looking at her photos we not only see the beauty of a dancer, the mystery of a great theatre but also the astonishing strength united with some kind of amazing fragility and tenderness that only a ballerina can express. Darian Volkova’s art is not “about” ballet, it is ballet itself.
Anna Pavlova Ballet Photography Contest has chosen Darian Volkova’s black and white portrait “ballerina with a camera” as the official image of the event and it will be printed on the cover of the Book 2016 by the courtesy of the artist.

 

 

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. –Pablo Picasso

When I was a child I had a dream to be a teacher as many others. But it wasn’t the only one. Just imagine 3-year-hyperactive-girl. So my mother tried to help me to express my energy and that was the reason why I attended so many additional classes … but the pianist of me did not work, the linguist – too. With dance, I befriended most of all, and everything ran so smoothly and moved in progress that becoming a ballerina goes without saying. But it wasn’t my dream or something else … May be to be a ballet dancer was the first step to my true destination to be a ballet photographer (Laugh ) In any event, I had no idea what kind of work it is.
I began with ballroom dancing, then I went to the first class of the Lyceum of Arts, and classical choreography became an important part of my life which I think will never go. After school I enter to the local Institute of Culture.
When I was in my second year a man from Moscow came to our institute with a master class, and then I realized that outside of Khabarovsk can be much more interesting. I consulted with my teacher, she told me, “Go for it,” and 19- years-old-still-hyperactive-trembling-with-fear-girl left everything and went to St. Petersburg. The leading teacher of the department helped me, and I changed the institute. Here the story begins…

 

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Love what you do and do what you love. ― Ray Bradbury

Hermitage has its own theater, he is called – Hermitage Theatre, where my friend danced in the troupe. Six months later, I jointed it, and in the third year started dancing “Swan Lake”, stormed into play in a week, not even really knowing the order. After that I changed different company, but now I don’t work in any theater in the rate, and for the most part on tour, it can be said to work freelance.
There are such kind of companies which are focused only on tours usually you should monitor them. Then you estimate condition they offer and final step is casting if was lucky enough you’d get your ticket.
But it is very difficult to be in move all the time. Especially when your husband isn’t related with ballet and cannot accompany you.
Of course it’s much more prestigious when you have a permanent job in a theatre but at the moment I’m interested in travelling-kind of work. During my first tour I’ve visited Norway and Denmark and when I was back in St. Petersburg I’ve realized how it’s great to be in condition of journey. Moreover such a job allow you to see different countries without spending much money (Smile)
As a rule ballerinas don’t have a long career. If you began to dance at an early age your time in ballet would come to an end at your thirty-five birthday. On the one hand ten-year-old dancers do incredible things but on the other hand when you’re thirty your movements are deeper and more sensible. May be it’s because at this age your body and mind set up a comprehensive whole.
But still you cannot be Aurora from Sleeping Beauty when you have the face of thirty-five-year-old woman because even make up isn’t able to deceive the audience. I think contemporary art is the best solution in this case because here dancer with classical ballet experience may create a miracle.

 

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Part II . EVEN INSIDE I’M DANCING
“Ballet is good, because it makes you stand up tall.” -Carine Roitfeld

Ballet is very multifaceted art so I cannot say it’s my whole life. I split my life up. There is a ballerina Darian Volkova , there is a ballet photographer Darian Volkova and there is a balletlover Darian Volkova who go to the theater to see performances not to work.
I love my work, it helps me to have both healthy body and mind .thanks to ballet I can express myself and leave my mark in history. The most attractive thing is there isn’t limit for perfection.
You think you can but you always meet people who can more and you begin to stimulate yourself. It’s a kind of inner discipline. Your inspiration suddenly became the most powerful thing and you dance in spite of tiredness. And just two things are on the map you and the audience. To describe me in one sentence ‘ I’m ballet addicted’. If you love ballet there isn’t weekends everything just blend together.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
― George Bernard Shaw

 

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To stimulate yourself all the time is the best way for building yourself . once teacher said to my “ Now I control you but you don’t understand what happiness it is. But soon you will have to do it yourself.” It’s very true because building yourself is the most difficult part in ballet especially if there isn’t somebody who control you.
You should love what you do this is the formula of success .Some dancers are in corps de ballet for many years. It’s not easy to accept such situation. After graduation everyone has great ambition but it’s not enough. You should have a strong character because ballet can broke not only legs and arms …
As for me I always want to try something new. I don’t want to be limited by profession I prefer to grow within it. Every time I try something new I get added evidence that I don’t have job I have field of activity.

“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.” ―Walt Disney

Than smaller theatre always has bigger competition. Recently I’ve talked with ballerina from Bolshoi Theatre I asked her about competition the answer was “There is no competition just working procedure”. I’ve never faced with glass in my pointes but heard about outrageous facts when somebody covered competitor’s dresses with Capsicam the ointment makes your body burn.
Once I had psychological pressure: first people stop to communicate with you then officials begin to think what’s wrong with you. But it’s no matter when you are professional and maintain your reputation.
But still there is friendship. Just imagine you spend practically all your time with these people. They are more than friends they are family you love them and at the same time want to kill them.

 

 

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Part III CARPE DIEM
“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
― Karl Lagerfeld
It’s simple my husband is a photographer. I always loved to watch when Sasha took photos and I thought “ I also can do this”. He gave me film camera and then l lost my money because film expenses were first in my list. I photographed everything I saw, and Sasha asked me “Why don’t you shoot ballet?”. It took me a year to think so in 2013 I made the first step to become a ballet photographer. But at that time I didn’t think that it’s serious . Now I understand I can express something via dance but photography is another view.
Photography is my escape. It helps me fight with tiredness and capture a moment. What is more it gives me an opportunity to communicate with different people ballet dancer cannot always has such ability. Thanks to the photography I can share my own worldview. Here I’m both a photographer and a choreographer.
“When I come into the theatre I get a sense of security.” –
Vivien Leigh
To enter a theatre is easier than it seems. You just need to have ballerina-hair-style, say “Hello” to the guardian and follow your friend who work in this theatre. But sometimes difficulties appear for example in Vaganova Academy electronic admission system was put into operation. But I still know how to enter…
I am always very nervous before such campaigns, what if I disgraced I would never allowed to pass and this is the worst thing to have to go back because I have a camera in my bag a great desire to shoot in my heart.
It was a funny story when one security officer thought I lost my pass at home and let me through.
It’s more difficult to enter the theatre officially . For example to enter Mikhailovsky theatre I connected with PR department so each photo I took is selected for publishing. This theatre cares about its reputation.
Another famous and significant theatre I wanna enter is Bolshoi .But tomorrow is another day.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
― Jack London

People always inspire me, but I’m not looking for muse . If someone did better than me I would do everything to prove I’m the one. As my husband says my inspiration is in crisis when everything alright I don’t want anything. At this moment instagram stimulates me for example I found beautiful ballet picture I said myself I can do it and may be even better.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
― Allen Saunders

I have a couple of plans but I don’t like to talk about it. Because when I share my plans they never come true. The only thing I can say if I realize what I’ve planned it will be a new level in my ballet-photographer life. Now my great wish is not to be depend on location because my family lives on the Russia Far East and I would like to be available for work in every country in every city. I want to travel to work in different theaters in Russia, Europe and America To give the people an opportunity to see ballet world through my eyes. This year was difficult enough I think that’s why now I wanna do what I love and there isn’t wish to conquer the world. But everything is ahead.

 

©ANNA PAVLOVA ASSOCIATION. All rights reserved

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Irina Mattiolli. Interview

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]IRINA MATTIOLI
ANNA PAVLOVA BALLET PHOTOGRAPHY
CONTEST WINNER 2016

Ever since she bought her first Reflex camera photography became the main focus of her life.
Her art is strongly connected to dance because she has studied ballet throughout her life.
Irina says that photographing dance and dancers comes naturally and pleasurably to her.
Irina is young but experienced and her personal profile includes any collective and even solo exhibitions.
Our juror Wim van Sinderen (Senior Curator of Foto Museum Den Haag) described Irina’s photo the winner of Anna Pavlova Contest 2016, as “intriguing beyond standard traditional ballet photography”.

 

How can you describe your style in photography? 



Whenever I have to answer this particular question, I always end up trying to explain how much dance is important to me. Ironically, this time is actually quite evident! 
Much of my work reflects a connection with dance. That is obviously present in stage performing shoots, but also it is possible to find a trace of it in my personal artwork, and the reason is very simple: I have studied ballet from the age of 7 and have continued to do so throughout my life.
The result is a poetic yet endless lack of certainties when it comes to shoot not just dance, but also fine art and fashion; because I have developed the (bad?) habit of really knowing content, mood and composition of my pictures just when I am about to make them (not wide in advance, as many other photographers).
In other words: maybe because of ballet, dynamic is a key feature to me and – given how it works – it brings to life a kind of aesthetic that can only be discovered in the moment, observing what is happening in front of me and then shooting instinctively.
Apart from that, people says that my photographic style is characterized by an eerie and timeless allure, full of dream, hallucination and elegance.
What are the specifics of working with dancers as models for you?



Having dancers as models is actually priceless to me. They are able to feel their body and the space around them as anybody else can. Because of that, I can establish a connection, a kind of ‘ artistic pas de deux ’ with them: working together in order to get the best result.

 

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What are the “laws” of ballet photography for you? Do you ever break them? Do they exist at all?
Honestly? I do not think there are strict laws in ballet photography, neither in photography itself. 
What is sacred to me however, is that there are laws of ballet and, more precisely, of ballet aesthetic. 
What I mean is that every now and then I see ballet pictures taken by photographers that knows nothing or little about ballet (often to non-professional dancers), and the results are full of painful details to me: wrong body lines, visible pointe shoes’ ribbons, lack of lightness, ugly outfits and so on.
How do you think your photography will be changing with time?

Without originality, I am going to say: improving. In a field like this, you never really stop to learn. Photography, like ballet, grows just if you never stop practicing.

 

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What are your professional goals?

I would like to reach a point where I can work more with quality than with quantity. 
Italy is an amazing place full of art, history and breathtaking places but being a photographer here today is very hard: the country is facing a delicate moment and economy is not at its best, which results in a very hard taxation and low incentives for people with a job like mine.
Anyway, I dare to say that travelling around the world to shoot professional dancers and performing arts… well, that would definitively be a great goal to me.
Who is the dancer of your  dream?

The dancer of my dreams… Let’s see, I could have thought carefully about that but… actually, my heart just yelled: Michail Baryšnikov.
He is an amazing artist, one of the kind that are hard to find nowadays. I fell in love with him, as a child, watching his Don Quixote with Cynthia Harvey for the American Ballet Theatre (1983).

 

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Where do you find your inspiration?

Partially in my mind, which is obviously the sum of my memories, my readings, the things that I see and my passions. But I also always recognize that the people with whom I work are a fundamental part of the pictures I take: every face is different, every individual is somehow unique, which means that every good image obtained, has been done that way also because of the person that is in it.

What attracts you more in ballet as a photographer – dancers’  everyday work and routine  or the “glittering” performance part?
As a dancer, I have never really thought about this distinction, because I feel that those are two part of the same reality. 
However, as a photographer, I would say that to me performances are more comfortable to shoot: not just because there are good staged lights and scenography, but mainly because I can ‘ hide ’ in the dark and try to catch the magic without being invasive to the dancers (a thing that is way more complicated to achieve when taking pictures in a ballet class).

 

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Your advice to those who are thinking of shooting dance for the first time.

My advice is one and simple: if you do not know anything about ballet, be sure to work with a proper professional dancer. In that way, she or he would be able not just to perform to a great level, but also to help you understand which perspectives, moments and poses are fine and which are not.
In fact, when it comes to ballet, you are entering a whole, rich universe and understanding its true essence is the first step to do in order to make it part of your art.

(c) ANNA PAVLOVA ASSOSIATION. All rights reserverd.

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