I don’t know about you, but for me, when it comes to photographing people, dancers make the absolute best subjects. They just have such control over every part of their body that allows them to produce the most amazing shapes. I don’t get to photograph them anywhere nearly as often as I’d like.
Somebody who does photograph them regularly, though, and extremely well is photographer Omar Z Robles. With a long history in performing arts, Robles now focuses exclusively on dancers. And in this video from SmugMug Films, we get some insight into how he works as he photographs dancers on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Omar was always drawn to performance art, but as a kid, he studied engineering and graphic design to make his parents happy. But once old enough to pursue his own interests, design led him towards photography and performance. He then studied to be a mime with legendary Marcel Marceau, and he uses that experience he gained to guide his work today.
When you look at a dancer, they look different. They walk different. Their arms, their chest is open. Ballet is something that is ingrained in their bones in the most literal sense. It’s like they become their art.
When you see them move, when you see them leap, when you see them extend… That’s when you really understand how extraordinary they are.
– Omar Z Robles
Omar sees dancers as the ultimate subject, and it’s easy to understand why. No matter what surroundings you place them in, they just have something about them that’s so captivating.
Although Omar’s had a long history with performing arts, his dance photography work started out as a series of self-portraits. They were “stylised jumps” in the middle of the New York streets.
At some point in his journey, Omar says it just became too difficult to be both in front of the camera and behind it at the same time. This isn’t surprising, with his images getting more elaborate. He says he “outsourced the jumping”. He replaced himself exclusively with dancers.
Omar’s work is both fascinating and beautiful. The skill and abilities of the dancer combined with Omar’s vision is just perfect. I could sit and look at it all day long – and, thanks to Instagram I can!
To accompany the video, SmugMug also interviewed Omar. You can read that on the SmugMug blog, where Omar offers some more insight into his thought process while he shoots. He also provides a few tips for others that can be applied to many styles and genres of photography.
Images used with permission