The Perfect Frame

December 27, 2015

For more than 40 years, photographer Lois Greenfield has been capturing dancers with astonishing clarity. Whether her subjects are floating midair or suspended in elaborate balances, her images have a way of freezing time. Her latest collection, Lois Greenfield: Moving Still, available now from Chronicle Books, features 150 photographs, including these images of Natalie Deryn Johnson and Paul Zivkovich. Both dancers spoke to Dance Magazine to share what they’ve learned from working with Greenfield and offer their tips for a successful dance photography collaboration. —Madeline Schrock

Natalie Deryn Johnson

Freelance dancer and choreographer

• You may have an idea, like “I’m gonna spin and jump,” but until you start working together, you don’t know what that might translate into. 
With Lois, it’s all about the chemistry in the moment.

• Take a Pilates or yoga class before. Make sure your hamstrings and back are warm because, in most cases, photographers will want you to jump.

• Come in with some music ideas. It’s easier for the photographer when they know you’re comfortable.

• When you’re trying an idea, it’s not necessarily going to work the first time. Improvise
until you find something you both want to work on.

• Finding ease in your body when you’re doing something extreme can create really great photography.

Paul Zivkovich

Macbeth in
Sleep No More

• Unlike a performance where there’s an audience, the reins are a little looser in a photography studio. Leave room for the unplanned.

• What something feels like isn’t necessarily what it looks like—what we’re after is on the outside, more of an aesthetic thing.

• These “impossible” images tend to use a lot of effort, so learn how to relax your face.

• The beauty of Lois’ shots is in their simplicity. If you’re working with another dancer or prop, you have to strip the movement down.