Forefront Dance Company – University Campus Suffolk

by rachelcherry11

I have been working with Forefront Dance Company at University Campus Suffolk to produce a photographic installation. In total there are 18 participants, 12 dance students from the BA programme at UCS and local gifted and talented 16-18 year olds, and 5 BA photography students.

I had made the decision not to teach photographic technique to the students, these workshops focused on creativity in terms of content and composition. Focusing on these two elements, allowed creativity in photographic technique to develop over the three sessions, particularly when it came to the students making their own series of images.

The first thing I asked the students to do was to pick up a camera and take photo’s of their peers moving. Looking through the camera offers a completely different perspective, and I thought it was important for the students to understand this from the outset. We then moved away from using the cameras and began watching and drawing movement, using observational drawings (examples of these can be seen in the sensory photography post)

We used Lisa Nelsons’ Tuning Scores as a different way of looking at, engaging with, and embodying movement. Using verbal commands, observers could take control of the group, as the movement began to repeat, slow down, fast forward, pause and end. This method allowed a different dynamic range to enter into the group, and allowed the students to make choices about how and what they wanted to see. We then developed this so that the students used these commands on their own bodies. The importance here was in the clarity of taking on and physicalising the commands on your own body.

We used a lot of pedestrain movement as this was the first time the photography students have been exposed to movement/performance in this way (i.e taking part) and it was important for me at least, that the students got to experience each others art form.

We re-enacted Steve Paxton’s Satisfying Lover, an improvisation piece originally made using 39 members of the community. The tasks are simple, the performers walk across the space, pause and/or take a seat. There is something very hypnotic about watching this work. However, even though it is very simplistic in terms of its commands, it requires a great deal of discipline from the performers, here the things learn’t about making choices (explored in Lisa Nelson’s tuning scores) came in handy. for example, If you are going to ‘pause’ how long are you going to be there for? When are you going to move again? and how? In addition to this, being aware of your external presence in space is equally important when the movement is so minimal, every little addition becomes apparent. Every twitch of the hand or foot, every time the eyes move from side to side becomes as loud as a scream and disrupts the hypnotic quality of the piece.

This commitment to movement, is what is integral to all of my work as a photographer. For me, it is about commitment and authenticity, and it is this that I hope to communicate to the students.

Sample Exercise  

In pairs I asked one person to stand with a clenched fist and the other to photograph this. I wanted each pair to come up with their own story using the clenched fist as a starting point. This exercise took 20 minutes in total, allowing for more imaginative and inventive ways of using the body and photography.

                       

Diary Entry for Forefront Company Blog – Rachel Cherry Dance & Photography Project. Penny Iles. 07 February 2012

We have had one workshop so far – led by Rachel Cherry alongside Hayley Ryan – involving the dance company members from UCS, one girl from Suffolk One and some first year UCS photography students.

The first workshop integrated both dance and photography at an introductory level, building things up gradually in both fields in terms of our senses and how the two mediums can merge.

We began by working with long, thin sticks in pairs – each using the end of one finger to balance the stick and move it around the space. Ideally we were using the same finger and hand. We experimented with this for a while with different people in pairs and trios. It was easier said than done of course (lots of falling sticks!) but did get easier and more fluid/adventurous over time. It was a good icebreaker to get to know people new to the group, and within that a good exercise for people not used to moving as much as dancers do.

We were then given an improvisation task that involved some people moving/dancing, some drawing their movement, and others taking photographs – trying to get in really close. We were all integrating here, circulating around the different tasks at will, although I don’t think the photography students did any movement as such (but I could be wrong!?!) In turn, I didn’t do any movement here, due to monitoring a rather relentless knee injury incurred during a previous Company workshop last October. Although I of course found it frustrating just to watch, having the drawing and photography to do provided a novel and interesting distraction and different focus.

I’ve always been very keen on photography – and have been snapping away since the age of 5 – nearly as long as I’ve been dancing. Indeed I’m often torn between the two mediums in terms of whether I should be behind or in front of the camera – which ironically I have thought would be an interesting dance piece and/or exhibition, something which is probably at the crux of our workshops. I’m not very technically knowledgeable about cameras though, plus the little I have learnt (way back whenever) was geared more towards film photography. For me it’s much more about what I see; perhaps more in the vein of photo-art than conventional photography in terms of technical expertise and experimentation. Also, I often feel intrusive photographing people. In this respect it’s as if the camera serves as both armour and a weapon. I’ve only ever done one exhibition, and this was a long time ago. There were no people at all in my pictures because they were mostly concerned with derelict scenes, and the colour/texture within them. I’ve since gone on to do a couple of projects involving set-design and props for magazine photo-shoots, which is perhaps the kind of way I had been working with the photographs in terms of generating a back-drop or ‘look’.

In this situation I was forced out of my comfort zone on several levels. Firstly although knowing some very simple basics, the camera was also quite a foreign

object to me. I was surprised at how heavy it felt in todays’ times of miniature featherweight technology. I felt comfortable with it, but perhaps as a child would with a new toy that he/she doesn’t know how to work properly, all a bit fingers and thumbs. The clicking didn’t seem real; and then it was too late! Secondly I was to photograph people – and very closely. This got better as I went along, especially since everyone was aware and willing, but I probably wasn’t as in people’s faces as I could have been. I’m used to being more of an outside observer with photography – floating around the peripherals trying to capture things as naturally/randomly as possible. Thirdly, I wasn’t dancing, and they were. In this respect I found myself tilting the camera at different angles and moving as if anticipating their moves, often standing on tiptoe. I had to stop myself joining in sometimes, or whirling around with the camera! This could be an interesting experiment for a dance maybe – although could prove very expensive! This part of the workshop made me think about how physical photography might need to be in terms of it’s own demands of strength/endurance and agility, and how difficult it is to photograph dancers! I used to have a Lomo Action Tracker for this kind of thing (good for capturing people spinning at four different speeds), but that really was like a toy camera and broke years ago. What we were doing here was more random and much more like a study if that makes sense. You almost had to pre-empt the shot to capture it in time, given the slight delay with digital cameras. It’s a tricky predicament since you have to be very quick and very steady simultaneously….

It’s also interesting maybe in terms of what I saw as a dancer when taking photographs of other dancers, if that makes sense, and whether this made any difference to things. I can only imagine it would/does – in terms of seeing shapes and anticipating perhaps.

We then moved on to working with vision – focusing on small spots and then the peripherals, zooming in and out and using different levels, to remind us how we see things.

Then we worked with our arms, which I joined in with in terms of movement. We alternated between looking and not looking at our arm whilst moving, and then shifting between both, seeing how this transferred to perhaps our opposite arm or the rest of our bodies. It was interesting here that nearly all of us felt more comfortable moving whilst looking at our arm since there was more control and concentration/focus.

This followed with our reenacting Steve Paxton’s ‘Satisfying Lover’ (1967). This involved us firstly walking for 10 seconds with our eyes closed – to illustrate everyone’s individual interpretation of time. We then did a performance of walking and pausing (like Paxton’s) – aiming to push the limits of convention and comfort. Although a good attempt, I probably did not push myself as far as I could of done here. I was probably a bit tentative due to testing the waters somewhat, but did do one thing very differently by going backwards at one point! This was not what we were supposed to do, but as I went on I wasn’t sure and began questioning this, in my own small way of bushing the boundaries.

We then took some portrait photos in pairs – taking it in turns to photograph each other – both in and out of focus (AF/MF). We then focused on a wrist, which was interesting, and picked out a few of our favourite shots to show the rest of the group. We got increasingly braver here, since although we did try different ideas, a lot of it was about random experimentation with the camera. I worked with Jenny from Suffolk One. My favourite shot was one of Jenny’s face with her fist punching through in the foreground. The perspective on it made it look as if her fist was as big as if not bigger than her face, which seemed an amusing little trick and looked quite effective. It was also mixing the portrait angle of things with the fist element.

Typically, technical hitches delayed our loading and sharing images but we got through most of them, which were great to see. Since we were picking up cameras at will and chopping and changing, it was hard to tell who had taken what unless someone happened to recognize and lay claim. They were all very different and unique, with both individual and collaborative approaches and amazing outcomes.

I liked the freedom this gave us – from both perspectives (behind and in front of the camera). Once you relaxed the ideas flowed and suggestions were made by each party – very much a two-way process and active over passive in terms of subject matter. I liked the use of blurring and sense of imperfection in that that was ok, if not essential in terms of keeping things real. This is doubly relevant it terms of how kinesthetic and three dimensional dance is. There are also parallels in the immediacy of both dance and photography. They are both very much about capturing a moment that is one-off and can never be repeated. The camera can attempt to freeze-frame the moments in dance, or provide stimulus for choreography perhaps, or maybe offer an accompaniment to live performance.

Overall I really enjoyed the workshop. I was worried I may have times of being or feeling a bit impatient, being generally much more used to actually moving and dancing than photographing it, but this was not the case. I was transfixed by and absorbed in all the tasks and surprised at how creative it was or could be. As before, there was also its’ welcome distraction from my injury, but perhaps in that respect I’d already come a little bit out of the ‘dancing zone’ in the way that I was used to, and so was more readily able to embrace and concentrate on the more visual side of things – although, as discovered in the workshop – there are also several sides to the visual, with equivalent demands/components of curiosity and energy. It takes our whole beings to make and produce something, even if that final image is projected as narrower/two-dimensional.

Linking both disciplines in a somatic, sensory way was very illuminating and appropriate I thought, and I’m looking forward to how our joint installation evolves over the next few weeks.

I’m very interested to see more of how Rachel works and how she incorporates her two-fold skills in such a complementary manner…

        

Photographs taken by Emma Voller – Photography student.

Simon Tolley – Photography Student

Blurb to the Illustration ‘Snap’. 08.02.2012

The illustration is about being in touch with your visual dialogue and analysing your surroundings. “The numbers on the top left represent the aperture and numbers below represent the shutter speeds. The mind provides a second dialogue which is the conscious thought, photographers should always be in tune to their visual and conscious dialogue, which helps in deciding to capture those fleeting moments.”

Forefront Company Blog for Rachel Cherry Workshop – Week 3 (Wednesday 15 February 2011) – by Penny Iles.

We began this session using the sticks again, balancing on one finger between two people – to open up channels of communication and establish a two-way dialogue (that would potentially be between photographer and subject/dancer), experimenting with levels and leading/following.

We then explored sensory photography – along the lines of Photo Voice, an organization providing the opportunity for blind or partially sighted people to take photographs. We watched the Nokia advert of Gary Waite – a blind photographer from Croydon. People with this kind of disability often feel isolated – so going to photography groups gives them a chance to integrate socially as well as creatively.

We teamed up into pairs and took it in turns to listen with our eyes closed or move. The listeners firstly attempted to draw someone’s movement from the sounds they heard – walking, stomping, jumping, swishing, etc. Secondly they attempted to take someone’s photograph after hearing a person clap. The results were interesting, with some surprisingly good shots. I managed to get a really good shot quite randomly, but others were not so good!

It was very difficult to take the pictures at times. Even if you felt you had sensed the right moment the camera wasn’t complying or ready to focus – and then the moment was gone. I felt like my camera was being particularly stubborn.

It was an interesting experiment in terms of how sound affects your environment – getting us away from today’s snap-happy tendencies of documenting absolutely everything on our mobile phone cameras – a habit by which we are at once intruding and distancing ourselves (making the shutter both literal and metaphorical). Here, Gary Waite responds with his body for example, rather than to the subject.

Rachel then showed us some war photographs taken that were shown on a news programme. The photographer’s legs had been blown off by a mine, but he still got the shot, emphasizing the strength and hunger needed in the field of photography. This is perhaps more applicable to photojournalism though, than to photo-art, although there is perhaps still a necessary compulsion involved and timely reaction.

We then worked on an exercise inspired by Lisa Nelson’s Tuning Score – doing some more partner work with shapes – imagining then doing – with our eyes closed.

We then worked some more on the portrait theme introduced in the last session. Rachel wanted us all to have a self-portrait with our eyes closed – to achieve some kind of uniformity. We then worked in pairs (I worked with Lara, a photography student), with individual themes. Having brought in a bag of tricks

of props and costume elements (mainly hats, masks and marker pens), I decided on using a pair of transparent sun-glasses – with the idea of being ‘Hidden’ or hiding, disguise etc. – not showing all of yourself or your true self – or indeed leaving ourselves open to exposure by way of transparency. I toyed with the idea of ‘I can see you but you can’t see me’, or of how you can ‘see through’ people sometimes – how things aren’t quite what they seem and appearances can be deceptive. The reflective element of the glasses was interesting in a ‘watching watchers watching’ kind of way… in that the photographer’s reflection could be seen in the glasses I was wearing. We experimented with wearing them at different angles, holding them, turning in profile – revealing a bit of one of my eyes, and so on. Using the clear glasses also made me think of simplicity and clarity, reminding me how photography can strip things down to basics once you shed any gimmickry or extra paraphernalia, or of how something very simple can be very effective and much more open-ended than perhaps at first presumed.

We also worked on pictures of my hands – using the same theme. This time I used a miniature (finger-size) ballet shoe – hidden within my hands. In other ones I positioned my hands in such a way that I might be hiding something. We were working towards a suggestive emphasis throughout.

I then took some of Lara’s hands, using the concept of firstly abandonment and then segments or sections/pieces. This second theme proved the better one, so we continued on that theme with the portraits of Lara as well. I tried to get very close – capturing segments of her face – like an eye/mouth/ear/profile. It made me think of the jigsaw-like quality of some of Picasso’s portrait paintings.

Finally, we loaded up our photos and measured the dimensions of two boxes each – which are to have photos mounted on as part of our installation.

Overall I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the sessions with Rachel and look forward to the pending installation and associated performance.

Forefront Company Blog for Rachel Cherry Workshop – Week 3 (Wednesday 15 February 2011) – by Penny Iles.

We began this session using the sticks again, balancing on one finger between two people – to open up channels of communication and establish a two-way dialogue (that would potentially be between photographer and subject/dancer), experimenting with levels and leading/following.

We then explored sensory photography – along the lines of Photo Voice, an organization providing the opportunity for blind or partially sighted people to take photographs. We watched the Nokia advert of Gary Waite – a blind photographer from Croydon. People with this kind of disability often feel isolated – so going to photography groups gives them a chance to integrate socially as well as creatively.

We teamed up into pairs and took it in turns to listen with our eyes closed or move. The listeners firstly attempted to draw someone’s movement from the sounds they heard – walking, stomping, jumping, swishing, etc. Secondly they attempted to take someone’s photograph after hearing a person clap. The results were interesting, with some surprisingly good shots. I managed to get a really good shot quite randomly, but others were not so good!

It was very difficult to take the pictures at times. Even if you felt you had sensed the right moment the camera wasn’t complying or ready to focus – and then the moment was gone. I felt like my camera was being particularly stubborn.

It was an interesting experiment in terms of how sound affects your environment – getting us away from today’s snap-happy tendencies of documenting absolutely everything on our mobile phone cameras – a habit by which we are at once intruding and distancing ourselves (making the shutter both literal and metaphorical). Here, Gary Waite responds with his body for example, rather than to the subject.

Rachel then showed us some war photographs taken that were shown on a news programme. The photographer’s legs had been blown off by a mine, but he still got the shot, emphasizing the strength and hunger needed in the field of photography. This is perhaps more applicable to photojournalism though, than to photo-art, although there is perhaps still a necessary compulsion involved and timely reaction.

We then worked on an exercise inspired by Lisa Nelson’s Tuning Score – doing some more partner work with shapes – imagining then doing – with our eyes closed.

We then worked some more on the portrait theme introduced in the last session. Rachel wanted us all to have a self-portrait with our eyes closed – to achieve some kind of uniformity. We then worked in pairs (I worked with Lara, a photography student), with individual themes. Having brought in a bag of tricks

of props and costume elements (mainly hats, masks and marker pens), I decided on using a pair of transparent sun-glasses – with the idea of being ‘Hidden’ or hiding, disguise etc. – not showing all of yourself or your true self – or indeed leaving ourselves open to exposure by way of transparency. I toyed with the idea of ‘I can see you but you can’t see me’, or of how you can ‘see through’ people sometimes – how things aren’t quite what they seem and appearances can be deceptive. The reflective element of the glasses was interesting in a ‘watching watchers watching’ kind of way… in that the photographer’s reflection could be seen in the glasses I was wearing. We experimented with wearing them at different angles, holding them, turning in profile – revealing a bit of one of my eyes, and so on. Using the clear glasses also made me think of simplicity and clarity, reminding me how photography can strip things down to basics once you shed any gimmickry or extra paraphernalia, or of how something very simple can be very effective and much more open-ended than perhaps at first presumed.

We also worked on pictures of my hands – using the same theme. This time I used a miniature (finger-size) ballet shoe – hidden within my hands. In other ones I positioned my hands in such a way that I might be hiding something. We were working towards a suggestive emphasis throughout.

I then took some of Lara’s hands, using the concept of firstly abandonment and then segments or sections/pieces. This second theme proved the better one, so we continued on that theme with the portraits of Lara as well. I tried to get very close – capturing segments of her face – like an eye/mouth/ear/profile. It made me think of the jigsaw-like quality of some of Picasso’s portrait paintings.

Finally, we loaded up our photos and measured the dimensions of two boxes each – which are to have photos mounted on as part of our installation.

Overall I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the sessions with Rachel and look forward to the pending installation and associated performance.

Lara Humphreys – Photography Student.

I’ve really enjoyed my experience working on this project. I’ve learnt alot in the past few weeks about the improvisation, counting on your senses and the best way to capture movement. I think this expereince will help me further in my own work as i have become a bit more confident working with people i don’t know as it has always been an issue for me before. It has also made me more aware of movement and the best ways to capture it. Overall i would love to do more workshops such as these, as they were both fun and beneficial.

Viki Simpson – Photography Student

This interesting collaboration stretched me artistically; at times working outside of my comfort zone I was given the space to experiment with sensory photography and slow shutter movement images.

        

Hannah Ridley – Dance Student

During our second week of company class with Rachel I found the improvisational tasks a good challenge as giving myself instructions on how to move during an improvisation is not something I am use to doing, I would usually not think to much about how to move during an improvisation.
Getting the chance to experience being a photographer during the session has been really interesting, it has been good trying to get amongst those dancing capturing movement and seeing what is produced.

Adrian Cramer – Photography Student

At first it was really weird, I wasn’t expecting to engage and take part in activities with the lovely dancers themselves. We had to take part in a few tasks set on getting us into the motion of a dancer, this in-turn gave us the ability to move in and out or around the dancers as we shot , allowing us to capture extraordinary angles of view as if the photo itself was in motion. We also did a performance piece replicate and it really got me thinking about my timing and why I chose to stop at that precise moment. Overall it was an interesting pleasant experience.