On the occasion of the exhibition Dancers Among Us, the photographs by contemporary photographer Jordan Matter,the Museum presents the photographs of another dance photographer, Barbara Morgan, from its collection.
Barbara Morgan is best known for images of famed dancer Martha Graham and her dance company of the 1930s and 1940s. Jordan Matter photographs dancers from many companies and countries.
Morgan and Matter capture the movement of the dancer outside of the performance.
For Barbara Morgan the stage was her studio in Edgemont, where she looked for the perfect moment to frame the image. She told Aperture magazine, It was necessary to redirect, relight, and photographically synthesize what I felt to be the core of the total dance.
For Jordan Matter the moment and the message of dance is everywhere his dancers happen to be — on a city street, in a cookie shop or a subway station. Matter prizes light as it is, he does not direct it. It’s amazing how many of my photos have happened because I was drawn to a light source of something. Some visual interest that I had that was specifically about the light.
Barbara Morgan Dance Photographer
At age five, my whimsical-philosophical father, holding a green leaf in his hand, said, ‘This leaf is not moving, but millions of atoms are dancing inside it, and atoms are dancing in everything in the world!’
So began Morgan's lifelong fascination with movement and dance.
Barbara Morgan (1900-1992) was inspired to photograph modern dance at a commemoration for Isadora Duncan, where she was shocked by the lack of images that should have recorded the famous dancer. Though Barbara Morgan felt compelled to document modern dance, she wanted to create more than a visual record. She wanted to capture the essence of the human spirit expressed in dance and to reveal the presence of energy in the soul and the physical body.
With a 4 x 5 handheld Speed Graphic camera and a Leica camera, Morgan began photographing dancers in 1938. For a decade she shot thousands of images but not during staged performances. Instead, Morgan meticulously planned her shoots in empty theaters or her studio. Controlling the settings of her camera, such as its shutter speed, she was able to freeze motion and suspend the dancer in midair forever.
To truly understand the content of a dance, Morgan studied dancers at rehearsals and performances. Her memory of a dance stayed with her for weeks and even months, before she tried to communicate the meaning of the dance in an image of a single defining moment — the moment that evokes the emotion of the dance.
December 6 1 pm
Gallery Tour of Barbara Morgan Photographs
with Choreographer Maxine Sherman