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April - Lois Greenfield.

Dance images by Lois Greenfield have become almost a yardstick for this kind of photography. Many try but not all succeed. The calendar offers two striking images from her very wide collection.

Some photographers’ work, though very competent, is sometimes difficult to distinguish, being almost anonymous while others are almost unmistakeable in their characteristics. Lois Greenfield’s images undoubtedly belong to the latter category.


Flipper Hope, Jack Gallagher, Daniel Ezralow, Ashley Roland

When people see her work for the first time, an inevitable comment is often made. There are bodies weightless in mid-air, inverted, contorted and flying in astounding constellations. Years ago the comment would have been something like “It’s clever to be able to hide all the wires holding up the dancers” or something similar. In our digital age, of course, the comment would be a veiled admiration for the level of fidelity that Photoshop can achieve. The odd thing is, both comments would be wrong in this case. Lois Greenfield produces astonishing pictures of dancers doing seemingly impossible things: period. That is to say the dancers are doing seemingly impossible things while Lois directs and captures the fleeting seconds. There are no wires and there is no digital trickery.

That is almost the hallmark of her work. Apart from the aesthetic aspect of humans at their physical peak defying gravity, there is the undeniable fascination about how some of the pictures are possible at all. Although Lois started with the idea of including blurring in her images of dancers to represent and illustrate the feeling of movement she eventually moved on in the opposite direction. Flash units firing at 1/2000s duration are now the order of the day to freeze everything. Planning and previsualization on Lois’ part, plus an uncanny sense of timing combine to produce images that would be hard to experience in reality as it would all be over so fast.


Mia McSwaiin

 That is almost the hallmark of her work. Apart from the aesthetic aspect of humans at their physical peak defying gravity, there is the undeniable fascination about how some of the pictures are possible at all. Although Lois started with the idea of including blurring in her images of dancers to represent and illustrate the feeling of movement she eventually moved on in the opposite direction. Flash units firing at 1/2000s duration are now the order of the day to freeze everything. Planning and previsualization on Lois’ part, plus an uncanny sense of timing combine to produce images that would be hard to experience in reality as it would all be over so fast.
 
To exploit the optimum from such a situation demands a lot from lenses and equipment in general. Lois favours a Hasselblad 500C together with 80mm, 120mm and 150mm Carl Zeiss lenses. In fact she has had the same camera for over twenty years. It isn’t just the quality and reliability either that has kept her faithful:
“I created my personal aesthetic with the Hasselblad, relying on its square format as a compositional strategy that revolutionized my approach to photographing dance,” she says.

Considering the nature of images, it would be forgivable to assume that Lois grew up on a diet of dance images, analysing and dissecting the work of the many dance photographers that have gone before. But not so exactly. The photographer that Lois names as a leading source of inspiration is in fact Sebastiao Salgado, the award winning photojournalist. When still at college studying anthropology, Lois became involved with photojournalism and set off to document other cultures in the third world. It was photography and travel writing that allowed her to follow these anthropological pursuits for a while. Back home in New York, rock and roll and the counter culture became subjects for her photography working for the Village Voice and finally, of course, dance.

For the last twenty years or so, the name Lois Greenfield has become synonymous with this unique style and she has created a whole world around it. She has a list of very highly trained and capable dancers that she calls on to produce the impossible. Needless to say, these photo sessions can occasionally be hard on the dancers, as some of the things they attempt to do are not completely riskfree! The pictures are not from performances in the theatre but are creations in her photographic studio in New York directed by Lois. She photographs ‘the spirit of dance’, not ‘dance’, as she points out and therefore doesn’t see herself as a ‘dance photographer’ in the normal sense at all.


Ha-Chi Yu, Sham Mosher, Sham Mosher, Andrew Pacho
 
Lois has two monographs to her name, a long list of one-woman exhibitions and group exhibitions that have appeared around the world. You can find her heading workshops and giving lectures, she writes articles and other people write articles about her and her work. If you’ve managed to miss all of this you might have seen her commercial work under the headings of IBM, Kodak, Pepsi, Toshiba or appearing in Elle, Life, Vanity Fair and Vogue to name only a few!

For a taste of this speciality, take a look at Lois Greenfield´s website. There you will find the gamut of Lois’ work covering sports shots, theatrical work, TV commercials, fashion shots and a good deal else. It is fairly obvious to see why Lois Greenfield was chosen as a Hasselblad Master.