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


Shaun Ho project with Leane Lim. Singapore

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Singapore is an interesting country. It is a quarter the size of Luxembourg, but has a population 10 times larger. Crowds are aplenty and open spaces are a rare luxury. Being on the equator the weather is unforgiving – It rains half the year and when it does not, temperatures reach up to 37 °C (98 °F). It is hot, wet, crowded, and shooting outdoors is always a challenge.

I was introduced to dancer Leane Lim by a friend whom I had worked with previously. Leane had just returned from the Central School of Ballet (CSB) in London where she graduated with a 1st class honours in Professional Dance and Performance. We discussed ideas casually over a simple lunch in the city and realised quickly that our creative ideas were aligned.

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We had both hoped to create images that were unique, yet familiar. Images set in common places that one would not ordinarily see in photographs. After some deliberation we agreed on working in the northern suburbs of Singapore, a novel location far away from the picturesque city centre where almost all dance images were created.

To challenge ourselves further, Leane and I set certain rules to make us think out of the box. Leane agreed to not perform attitudes or arabesques – poses that most dancers would often fall back on in photographs, and on my part, I limited myself to using only available natural light – even indoors.

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It stormed during the morning of our shoot, however when it stopped, we were blessed with beautiful soft golden light. We were also fortunate to have a scholar from the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT), Tania Angelina, assist us in the project. A dancer herself, Tania not just supported us, but also helped to critique the images as they were created.

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Please describe your project in one o two sentences – what is the main aim and the main idea of it?

I am interested in understanding the intricate psyche of humans. I use the language of dance and photography to build bridges between people of different cultures and languages. The project is as much photography as it is about the human interactions and connections that needs to happen to make the images possible.

Have you been to Italy before? Is there any difference between the image of Italy that you had and your real experience?

It was my first time visiting Italy. I always heard that people are friendly and passionate in everything they do. But when I took the time to connect with locals the experience was beyond anything I ever expected. From the passion of the cheese vendor to the hospitality of the people. For example, on a photo shoot in Naples, all the neighbours welcomed us with food, sweets, coffee and wine. They opened their doors to help us and at the end of the shoot it felt like we were old time friends. Even my husband participated in a family dinner while we were shooting!

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Naples. Dancer: Andrea Giada Pallara

What was the specifics of locations of Rome and locations of Naples for you?

The cities I visited are full of unique characteristics coming from their history and their people which I enjoyed very much. Scouting the locations was an eye opening experience where I realized how the presence of tourists and the footprints of humans could change the perception of a place. In some cases like Naples I decided to shoot on hidden streets because they still held a unique atmosphere even thought were not major sites. In Rome we decided to shoot very early in the morning to avoid the crowds and literally we were able to experience the scenery waking up with a gorgeous golden sunrise that gave me the feeling of the place I envisioned in my mind. In Milan we did the opposite and included the people that gather at some of the busiest fashion centers on the world, The Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery and the Piazza del Duomo.

Zaire Kacz Acquedotti

Rome. Dancer: Andrea Giada Pallara

One thing about each of the cities that will always last in your memories.

In Rome the monuments and fountains remind me of our civilization and I see them as an example of perseverance.
In Florence I found the realism and gesture of the sculptures powerful and inspiring.
In Milan I found a crowded city that yet feels individualist.
From Napoli I will keep in my heart the warm personality of the people, and of course I will remember it as the place where I tried the best pizza and cannolis of my life.

Did Italian spirit influence the style of your work in any way?

The spontaneous, passioned and happy spirit of the people in Italy,specially in Napoli, definitely influenced my images. In fact, during my shoot in Napoli I decided to include a male dancer that was walking by the location. He was a dancer from the same dance company as our ballerina on the shoot. Because of the good energy they projected together, we ended up with some of my favourite images.

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Rome. Dancer: Paolo Spalice

Dance photo shooting in Italy: is it different from how it works in the United States?

Coordinate the shoots in Italy has been more challenging than in the USA because of the language barrier and the lack of knowledge about permits and locations. The help of local videographer and producer Antonio Azzurro and Anna Pavlova Association has been key on the success of the project specially because of our limited time.
In the US I usually coordinate the shoots myself with my team and the help of friends from the dance field.

Italian models and collaborators…. The time that you spent together, was it enough to understand their personalities?

For this project it is important for me to explore human relationships, in that sense in the US as well as in any other country, I prefer not to interact with the dancer before we work together on the shoot, a side of a short introduction in person or by phone. My purpose is to get to know them through the language of dance which informs me about their sensibility. At the same time I use the spontaneous artistic interactions that occur on the shoot as a bridge to connect us and make possible to create together.

In Italy I was concerned about the language barrier which in the beginning we tried to resolve with the help of our Italian partner, producer Antonio Azzurro, who translated some of my thinking and ideas to the dancers. However, shortly we realized we didn’t need to be too specific and I felt confident to continue the shoots without translations.

I felt that in that way I was being true to the purpose of my work on the search for the connections among humans not just to create images but to experience the fact that we were communicating mainly with the language of art.

Zaire Kacz Milano

Milan. Dancer: Ester Carminati

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Rome. Dancer: Stefania Romano


Andrey Stanko. Wokshop in Naples, Italy

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Don’t loose your chance to take part in a great open air dance photography workshop that will take place in breathtaking locations of Naples.

Maestro Stanko is a well known specialist in ballet photography and it will be his second workshop in Italy. The most important part of Andrey Stanko’s workshops is practice. Revealing his secrets to the students he lets everyone try the new knowledge in their work and see together what a huge difference little details can make.

The program of this workshop includes:

working with lights and flashes on open air photo sessions,

working with models and creation of poses,


choice of background,

psychological aspects of working out of the studio for photographers and models,

practice of shooting a professional ballet dancer for all the participants


Use this unique chance to grow professionally while on vacation in one of the most beautiful places of Europe.

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Elena Lekhova. Interview

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  • Ballet or photography – what came into your life first?

Surely, it was ballet! In Russia it’s quite usual to take children to the ballet very early, at the age of 3-5 years. I don’t even remember my first visit to a ballet theatre. I can only tell you we used to go to performances very often. At one time I even dreamed of becoming a scene artist.

Балет или фотография – что для Вас было первым открытием?

Конечно, балет! У нас в России принято водить детей на балет с 3-5 лет. Я не помню своего первого посещения театра, ходили на спектакли мы очень часто. Это всегда был настоящий праздник для меня. Одно время я даже мечтала стать художником-декоратором.  


  • Who is your teacher and unquestionable authority in ballet photography?

Speaking of modern photographers, it is Alexander Gulyaev. In the field of studio photography – Richard Avedon.

Кто Ваш учитель и бесспорный авторитет в фотографии балета.

Из современных фотографов это Александр Гуляев. Студийные съемки артистов балета, конечно, Ричард Аведон.

  • The dancer’s personality – does it mean much to you? Do you seek to know your models better?

Yes, the dancer’s personality means a lot. It is always interesting for me to show the individuality of the dancer, his or her charisma and that’s why I need to know more. I listen to some interviews, watch some videos of performances. Personally, I am very fascinated by the people of ballet. They are very unusual, outstanding, persons of high integrity . I respect and admire them very much. Ballet dancers have such extreme will power and capacity to work overcoming all the limits, both physical and emotional.

Личность танцовщика – имеет ли она для Вас значение, стремитесь ли Вы узнать больше о персонаже Ваших съемок?

Да, для меня личность танцовщика имеет огромное значение. Мне всегда интересно показать индивидуальность артиста, его харизму, а для этого важно узнать о нем больше – послушать интервью, посмотреть видеозаписи выступлений. И просто по-человечески мне очень интересны люди балета. Это всегда неординарные, яркие, цельные личности. Я глубоко уважаю и восхищаюсь ими. Танцовщики балета обладают невероятной силой воли и работоспособностью, это люди, способные, кажется, преодолевать границы возможного – физические, эмоциональные.


  • How can you describe you as a photographer in three epithets?

Sharing, inspired and daring.

Как бы Вы могли охарактеризовать себя как фотографа в трех эпитетах?

Сопереживающая, воодушевленная, смелая.  

  • Your dream model?

Diana Vishneva

Модель Вашей мечты, из прошлого или настоящего.

Диана Вишнева

  • Has your style been changing with time?

Sure. Now I pay more attention to emotions, feelings, demonstrations of individuality, hidden depths of a dancer’s personality both on stage and off stage.

Меняется ли Ваш стиль со временем?

Конечно. Сейчас я в большей степени уделяю внимание эмоциям, чувствам, проявлениям индивидуальности, глубины личности артиста на сцене и за ее пределами.  


  • What does your experience in dance photography give you? Understanding that you can’t program every step of your work? Being sure in your every movement while working?

My experience of stage photography has taught me to make fast decisions about the parameters of my shooting which can let me take better picks in each specific situation and to react to all unexpected changes. It helps developing maximum concentration on my work and mobilization of all possible creative recourses.

Что дает опыт в сценической фотографии – уверенность в каждом следующем действии? Понимание того, что течение съемки нельзя предугадать?

Опыт сценической фотографии помогает быстро принимать решения о том, какие параметры съемки позволят получить наиболее интересные кадры, мгновенно реагировать на изменения, развивает навык максимальной концентрации внимания и мобилизации творческих сил.        

  • On stage or backstage?

Both are interesting.

Сценическая фотография  или бэкстейдж?

Интересно и то, и другое.

  • Black and white or color?

Depends on specific aims of the shooting.

Черно-белое или цвет?

Зависит от задач съемки.


  •  Your   most impressive experience in ballet photography?        

 One of the most impressive was my first ballet spectacle shooting. I was working at a very innovative spectacle of Viacheslav Samodurov, the artistic director of Ekaterinburg Ballet, contemporary ballet “H20”. It was performed as a part of the second Ural Industrial Biennale of Contemporary Art. The performance was very special because it was held at a department of one of the oldest machine construction plant of Ekaterinburg, Russia. The scene and the lights were put right in the middle of this department, there were moving projections on the background.The bodies of the dancers were covered with paint. In the culmination moment the streams of water began falling on the scene, raining on the dancers and the pain began washing off. The whole performance was very beautiful, unusual and astonishing. During that shooting I felt that every performance is unique and dancers can’t repeat it exactly in the same way as you can’t step in the same river twice.The photos from that ballet performance were published in the Theatre Newspaper and other Russian media.

Ваш самый впечатляющий опыт, связанный с фотографией балета. 

Одной из самых запоминающихся была моя первая съемка балетного спектакля.   В 2012 г. я снимала новаторскую постановку Вячеслава Самодурова, художественного руководителя екатеринбургского балета, современный балет «H2O». Этот балет был показан в рамках 2-ой Уральской индустриальной биеннале современного искусства. Уникальность спектакля заключалась в том, что он был поставлен в действующем цехе одного из старейших машиностроительных заводов Екатеринбурга (Россия). Прямо в цеху была установлена сцена, выставлен свет, на задник сцены транслировались  проекции. Тела артистов были покрыты краской. В кульминационный момент на сцену полетели струи воды, как дождь, краска начала смываться. Все действие было невероятно красивым, живым, необыкновенным.   
И тогда на съемке я почувствовала, насколько каждый спектакль уникален: как нельзя войти в одну и ту же реку дважды, также нельзя дважды станцевать свою партию, сыграть роль одинаково.  Фотографии с той съемки были опубликованы в театральной газете и других российских СМИ.

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  • What would you advise to young photographers?

The most important thing in our profession is to find your own idea of art, as it is in every creative profession. For example, if you love  ballet and start working at a theatre, you should find what strikes your heart most. You must shoot what impresses you. When you find your own  theme and idea of the shooting, you can lay down your creative aims. And it will become easier for you to choose “instruments” for your work – what type of technique to use or from which perspective to shoot to express your idea in the best way possible. Your individual artistic approach is very important, otherwise shooting ballet becomes an ordinary photo record of a performance. 

Что бы Вы посоветовали начинающим фотографам? 

Самое главное в профессии фотографа, как и в любой творческой профессии, найти свою идею творчества. Допустим, вы любите балет и начинаете снимать в театре – что вас цепляет? Что трогает вашу душу? Что заставляет вас трепетать, волнует вас больше всего? Именно то, что не оставляет вас равнодушным, и нужно снимать.    Когда вы найдете свою тему, идею съемки, сформулируете творческие задачи, вам будет легко выбирать и средства для осуществления замысла: с какого ракурса снимать, какую технику использовать,  какие выразительные средства помогут наилучшим образом раскрыть вашу идею. Здесь очень важен авторский подход к работе, в противном случае съемка в театре превращается в обычную фотофиксацию спектакля.     

  •  Are there any specific traits of Russian ballet photography? Please give an advice to foreign photographers who want to shoot in Russian theatres.

    It is difficult to distinguish any special traits of ballet photography in Russia. Most ballet companies are very international now. Russian ballerinas dance all over the world. The first rule for every ballet photographer – do not disturb and always respect dancers and all other participants of the performance, including the audience.

    Особенности российской традиции фотографии балета и чтобы Вы посоветовали иностранным фотографам, мечтающим работать с русскими балеринами и российскими театрами.

    Мне сложно выделить какие-то российские особенности фотосъемки балета…  Сегодня балетные труппы большинства театров мира интернациональны. И балерины из России танцуют по всему миру.  Основное правило для фотографа в любом театре – не мешать, относиться с уважением к артистам и всем участникам процесса создания спектакля, а также к зрителям.      



Santiago Barreiro about his artistic project

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This series is an extract of work in progress and makes part of an artistic project dedicated to my personal research on  the world of dance.

Within this project I work on the conceptual idea of the aesthetics being a fundamental tool of interpretation of freedom in the dance. It is not an objective study but a kind of my own “investigation” answering one question – “Who is the one who dances?”.

Part of being a dancer for me is the internal struggle of a human being whose body becomes an instrument to represent other lives, up to the point of losing their identity.




The photo selected as the Photo of the Month by Ballet Insider and Anna Pavlova Ballet Photo Contest was made on a trip to Argentina to a godforsaken slaughterhouse. We crossed the border between Uruguay and Argentina without being sure that we succeed with our plans because we didn’t have any official permission. They let us in only after being told that our model worked with a famous ballet dancer Julio Bocca. We were given a very limited period of time for the shooting.

When we found this amazing room full of rolls and ancient books I suggested to our ballerina Marina Sanchez to get inside the library. It was not easy but we managed to make this photo that became the iconic image of the project.  We had to leave the place after a little bit, but we did it with the happiness of having achieved several awesome pics.

Ten days later we found out that the building was destroyed by fire. Sadly this was the last picture made in this ancient room….




Photographer of the Month

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And the Winners are

SANTIAGO BARREIRO, Uruguay, 1st Place

Portrait 3 - Santiago Barreiro

Dancer: Marina Sanchez


SHOUN HO, Singapore, 2nd Place

Shaun Ho April 2016

Dancer Wang Wen



DUNSKI ARI, Uruguay, 3d Place

Ari Dunski April 2016

Dancer: Joyce Liziane


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Ari Dunski about his Hotel Carrasco Project

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Hotel Carrasco situated in Montevideo, Uruguay,  stands as a focal point of the urban French styled landscape of the city designed by Charles Thays and Edouard André in the first decades of the twentieth century.

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The architecture , inspired by classical and baroque tradition , appealed to a formal language of eclectic and historicism strongly identified with France root paradigm of civilisation and good taste to the society of the time . It is witnessed by the mansard, monumental staircases and luxuriously decorated interiors even today.

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 I thought that it would be nice to combine this great architecture with the aesthetics of a Ballet dancer, so I chose Sofia Carratu , a great young professional who immediately  felt comfortable and danced for the Hotel, and for my camera.


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