One of the cool things about any career is how random acts and circumstances ultimately determine a course, or provide direction. And no career I know of is more random than photography.
In 1978, I moved into a great little studio apartment on W. 65th St. in Manhattan. It cost $250 a month. If I looked east, from my fire escape, every Thanksgiving morning, I had a view of the Macy’s balloons as they floated and bumbled their way south towards 34th St., from their inflation stations up by the Natural History Museum on Central Park West. If I looked west, and leaned way out, I could see a piece of Lincoln Center, hub of the dance universe in NYC. Little did I know that moving into that apartment would influence my choice of photographic subject matter for the rest of my career.
I noticed dancers, virtually every morning, making their way towards the practice studios over at Lincoln Center. It was easy to pick them out, bun headed, duck walking, extended necks, carriage maintained just so. Mixed in of course would be a dance bag, the inevitable bottle of Evian, and a certain arrogance of gaze as they move through the streets with a physical grace they never allow to dissipate, while the rest of us scurry into the subways. They are an elite, like fighter pilots in pre-flight mode, going to a practice studio where they daily make their bodies do things most humans never think of attempting.
I made the above picture in 1978 or ’79, and with those isolated clicks, I knew I would return again and again to the world of dance, camera in hand. We have just put together a Quicktime movie of my dance work, with the intent of sending it out to ballet companies, in hopes of attracting assignments. We always seek work. It’s a thing we continue to do, as any photographer must. Many thanks to Jon Cospito and Michael Cali in my studio, who did the heavy lifting of putting this together. Love to know what readers might think. You can link to it direct on Vimeo…. https://vimeo.com/85203522.
Or, here is the link to the video section on our website, and it’s the first one that comes up: – http://portfolio.joemcnally.com/#!/video.
That’s great Joe – I’d hire you ! Wonderful pictures and your team did a great job putting the video together.
Your ability to capture motion astounds me! It’s like chaos controlled.
Thanks for this amazing video. Very inspirational.
Joe! I too am a photographer (Southern California-based), and have seen you speak at Photoshop World and I have your book “The Moment it Clicks.” I also was a dancer from age 5 and took many kinds of dance for 20 years: ballet, tap, jazz, modern, musical theatre, hip hop… You name it, I danced it. So your photos of dancers touch me especially so on multiple levels and you are truly one of my photographic heroes. From your impassioned voice in telling the stories behind your images to the final product … You are eloquent from words on a page to the final image and a true inspiration to me. I’ve learned so many tips from your book from the technical to the conceptual (thinking out of the box). Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world! 🙂
Pierre W says
Thanks for sharing those images .
Two in particular speak to one’s soul : the sore feet of the dancer and the boy/girl standing on his arm with the large shadow
Steve Wylie says
Ever since my first portfolio review, which you graciously consented to give me back about eight years ago, you’ve been a mentor – whether you’ve known it or not- and a continual inspiration. Thanks for doing that for me, and for countless other photographers whom you’ve inspired to see better and create memorable images.
Marv Ross says
What software was used for the zooms and pans? Nice flow and rhythm.
Bill Laramie says
You have and always will be a source of inspiration. Seeing some of the images clipped from your Kelby training videos reminded me of how caring and concerned you were with not only getting the shot but ensuring the talent was taken care of in the form of adequate warm-ups and rest. Your management of a photo shoot is noteworthy as is your end result. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with those of us who continually strive to improve.
Ivan Boden says
I just threw my camera out the window.
I am so not worthy of owning it anymore.
Your work is brilliant, imaginative, evokes emotion and beauty of dance, unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Thanks for sharing… Leaving now to pick up the shards of plastic and glass off my front porch and dump them into the recycle bin called my life.
David Taranza says
I recognize most of the pictures from your books and videos, and I truly admire your passion for dance, how you can capture the charm of each character, and the master craft behind every shot.
I believe that the video will help your studio get new assignments, and I could only wish you’d share a few of them with us. You are our inspiration, our compass point.
Karen Kurta says
Just stunning, Joe! So inspiring.
Bob From SLC says
Mesmerizing. You have been blessed in being there and in the capture and presentation of these images. Thank you.
Laurence Schiffman says
You couldn’t have chosen a better collaboration: beautiful young men and women, the gorgeous form of dance, and your talent. I, marginally, prefer the more natural, simple images. A few of the others seem a bit forced and contrived. Overall, the portfolio is jaw dropping. The lighting is stunning and most of the shots approach perfection. I hope to see more of you and dance.
Glenn Barlow says
You are the master, how could any dance company choose anyone else. These dancers allseem to be in motion, hard to do with a still image. What really makes them special is the visual contrasts of the environments you place the dancers. The video is strung together nicely to tell the story as well.
Only comment I can offer, not knowing you intended buyers, is how comfortable they’d fill about the time to take dancers into these diverse environments, how economical is that to their business plan to take images in a place they’d never otherwise be. Not that that’s smart, but it might be how business people (I used to be one) think.
Glenn Barlow says
Sorry for the auto fill generated spelling errors above. My iPad wants to think to much when I type on it
Chris Schonwalder says
You again grab my emotion Joe. You did it with the photo of your Mom; with the story of the burned girl in Asia; and now (as often) with your verbal descriptions and photos of dancers. I shoot ballet, both professional and schools, and appreciate what it takes to excel in a dance career. Yes, an attitude, but with grace. Dancers move noticibly differently than other people on the street; but on stage, they make it poetic.
I’ve followed you for many years and have seen all the video images before; but never will it be too much. Thanks again from North Carolina.
David Potts says
Bill Bogle, Jr. says
Stunning. I love your use of light (duh) and putting the dancers in unique locations. Who but you puts them in the boiler room or on the roof in Russia. I always wonder what they must think of you or your suggestions for a shot. But they all work magnificently.
Bill Bogle, Jr.
Joe Schmidt says
Great photography Joe. Maybe it was something with my internet connection, but the show kept stopping on Vimeo. Had to keep restarting it. Worke fine on your web site. The gremlins are at work.
Craig Lee McAllester says
Thanks Joe, truly insightful. I’ve been shooting since 1964, and I’m still just a student of photography. Your work gives me the drive to keep going.
Doug Ayers says
A dance company would be fools if they did’nt hire you.
Devorah Goldstein says
Whoa, stunning! And I recognize a couple shots from a Kelby Training video! 😉 Thank you for putting up such a large collection of your dance work for everyone to enjoy, hope it does the trick! (It should!!)
Beyond words! One of the (count on the fingers of one hand) blogs that have touched me deeply. Thank you Joe!
Very inspiring. Loving your work.
michael anthony murphy says
Natural light in this one? it can’t be!!!
Gary Scaife says
Elena Gerli says
Inspiring and wonderful. Cirque du Soleil comes to mind…
“… in hopes of attracting assignments.” One of the most amazing photographers around seeks work. Lesson learned.
Zoe Smith says
Wow what a nice dance step! As a passion or exercise, dance is really helpful for maintaining health. Thank you so much sharing it with us.
John Staber says
An inspirational video. My favorites are the shots with the dancers out of their element. Who but Joe McNally would pose a ballerina in the torpedo room of a submarine. I’ve learned a lot from you Joe but I think the most important lesson has been to put my camera and subjects in unusual places.
Rick Potts says
Truly inspirational. I too stand in awe of dancers, even my own group, who have tried unsuccessfully to beat rhythm into me. Thanks for the video, although it was missing one of my favorites – the strobe effect of multiple images (which I am sure you have done several times). Thanks & keep shooting
Rick Potts says
P.S. Congrats on the recent Award.
Fadi Kelada says
Thank you Joe for sharing this video, I’m working on ideas for the upcoming Fast Flash workshop, see you in Dubai 🙂
Peter Steiner says
Amazing portfolio of work. I am an avid fan of your photography, and I truly feel you being AT HOME in this particular niche. The work just speaks for itself. 🙂
Richard Hales says
Inspirational and informative as ever. Your words are almost as well put together as your imagery!
Rikki Hatfield says
Always learning inspiration photography tips from you. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!!!!
You know Joe, It’s interesting that the third time in a month’s time I read about Dance Photography. Earlier I saw a DVD borrowed from a colleague, with Dave Hobby doing a Dance photosession, and I saw some clips of Frank Doorhof doing dance photography, and now I see this post from you!
I still need to develop my own strobist techniques, as I’m just starting my first steps in that larger universe, but I actually have a friend who used to do professional dancing, and recently started a dance consultancy company here in Shanghai. I think this is a great opportunity to try some dance photography myself.
Alan Langley says
I really enjoyed the video but I have to say that I really love the image that you blogged – superb.