His images of dancers from a number of genres could only have been taken by someone who knows everything there is to know about dance, movement, emotion, fluidity and flexibility – the essence of dance. By someone who can anticipate the dance moves and shapes of the dancers and thus set the shutter speed and move the camera to achieve these stunning images. By blurring his images, Baryshnikov captures the energy and movement and turns the human form into lyrical abstractions. He uses long exposures but never allows the human shape to disappear or become unrecognisable – a delicate balance. He is said to produce many thousands of images through which he undertakes a meticulous search until he finds the image among the many – “my eye catches it and my heart stops.”
Baryshnikov explains his technique as follows:
“In order to achieve that effect of movement, I kind of…dance with [my] camera in front of the dancers.”
In Space New York’s introduction to Baryshnikov, they describe his technique and approach as follows:
“…the blurred outline of the dancer, assimilated to the general dim effect, registers as a metaphor of motion. Sometimes the misty shape that joins successive points through which the dancer’s body has passed astonishes you by the clarity of its graphic design, and it illustrates the plastic continuity of dancing. Here and there the contrast on a picture between blurred and clear outlines draws your eye to the position of a still figure that on stage might have passed unnoticed in the hubbub, but that in the photograph reveals its momentary pathos.”
And Alistair Macaulay from the New York Times wrote of Baryshnikov:
“He was really being painterly in the way that he photographed dance,” said Macaulay, “using particularly a form of blurring that showed how the dancer, or parts of the dancer, would move through space.” (Coombs 2008)
Baryshnikov’s technique to capture his images was to get up on stage with the dancers and almost perform with them, often just inches away from.
I was immediately captivated by Baryshnikov’s work and could see that our aims in our imagery are similar. I am searching for the essence, I am seeking to capture movement, shape and form with varying shutter speeds mimicking the movement of the subject, whether it be reeds, trees or forests. I use the camera as a paint brush to produce different painterly aesthetics. I experiment with lots of different shutter speeds, various directional movements and a variety of lenses. The technique requires lots of experimentation, lots of images and a keen eye to pick out those images that capture the essence of the subject perfectly. It also requires a deep understanding and connection.
“Mikhail Baryshnikov – About the Artist.” Retrieved 23/2/21, from https://spacegallerystbarth.com/mikhail-baryshnikov–cv.
“Mikhail Baryshnikov Bio.” Retrieved 23/2/21, from https://www.artsy.net/artist/mikhail-baryshnikov.
Coombs, M. (2008). “Mikhail Baryshnikov Photographer.” Retrieved 23/2/21, from https://www.mprnews.org/story/2008/06/21/mikhailbaryshnikov.