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NYC Dance Project – a unique ‘celebration of bodies’ photographed in a Brooklyn living room

2015-12-21 Sometimes everyday things spark brilliant ideas. When Sarah, an aspiring thirteen year old ballerina, wanted to adorn the walls of her room with ballet photographs to celebrate her birthday, her photographer parents Ken Browar and Deborah Ory were unable to find beautiful images of the current stars she adored.

Charlotte Landreau, Martha Graham Dance Company

So they decided to create their own. They had a good base to start from: Ken was already a successful photographer, having undertaken portrait sessions with celebrities like Meryl Streep, André Previn and Natalie Portman, in tandem with a host of editorial and advertising shoots.

Deborah, herself a former dancer, also has a background in photography and photo-editing.
“We both admired Daniil Simkin, a Principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre,” says Deborah, “and so two years ago we asked him to be our first subject. Daniil loves photography and he agreed to work with us. Once the images had been posted on social media the word spread in the dance community and dancers from all over approached us to collaborate.”

Michael Jackson Jr, Daniel Harder and Sean Carmon, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

Michael Jackson Jr, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

So the NYC Dance Project took off and the website is now host to a wealth of beautiful and intimate images. The photographs have all been created in the same domestic setting: the couple’s residence, a large loft in an old factory building in Brooklyn. Another vital element that creates continuity is the use of the same camera, a Hasselblad H4D-50 and HC 80mm (HC Macro 120mm for portraits) throughout, and it’s all helped to create a strong visual framework for the series. Each photograph is accompanied by an interview with the dancer.

“We actually shoot in our living room,” says Deborah. “Having these artists come into our home creates a different environment for them. During the shoots, cats will wander across the set, nap in the tutus and our children will arrive home from school.”

Sebastian Vinet, Ballet Santiago, Chile

Miriam Miller, New York City Ballet

“Everything is planned, almost like a choreographer would plan a performance, with thought going into our backgrounds, lighting and concepts for the images.”

“Many of our shoots feature costumes or couture clothing and that’s all coordinated beforehand with the dancers.”

The couple are currently working on a book of their images (to be published in September 2017) and they are also planning a gallery show.

Chase Finlay and Lauren Lovette, Principal dancers with New York City Ballet

“There are many dancers we would still like to photograph, but we also want to work with choreographers. Many have inspired us as artists and they are a key reason we fell in love with dance.”

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