Still Moves with Lorna Sim: doohickies & playing with light

In October 2012, QL2 ran another in our series of photography workshops for dancers: “Still Moves”, 12 hours with professional photographer Lorna Sim.  “For dancers in dance photography: you as subject, you as photographer. Equipment, technical issues, staging, lighting, and direction; being a subject for photography in dance: taking and giving art direction, choreography for photography, and creative collaboration.” 

Alana did the workshops, and gives an inside view.

Even though this was the second “Still Moves” workshop series I’ve been too, I showed up with a vocabulary that included, but was not limited to, “doohickie”, “thingamabob” and “whatsamajig” when it came to cameras. Apparently, there was no way this could not be a learning experience.

On our first day of the workshop it was so sunny that we decided to go outside. We played around with trying to find backgrounds and frames that worked. We rolled around in the grass and climbed in the trees and must’ve looked a bit wild, but in a very artistic and rhythmic way. It was difficult to find a background that wasn’t “busy”, because it would detract from what the dancer was doing. The dancer would mostly just improvise movement and if the people taking photos liked something specific we would ask them to repeat it. Even when you were being the photographer it was easy to learn about how to be the dancer in front of the lens because you were able to see what worked, what you liked and how to communicate with the dancer so that they would do what you wanted. Aside from a little grass rash and the surprise stick in your hair later on, it was a very successful day and it was really interesting to realise just how much really goes into finding somewhere to shoot photos.

On the second day of the workshop we played with Lorna’s fancy lighting equipment. We learnt how to set it up and the basics of how it all worked and what it all did, and especially how long it took to set up!

Our third day of the workshop was a lot more creative and probably my favourite day. First, Ruth talked to us about the ideas behind how all the Quantum posters were made and then we were given the opportunity to come up with our own concepts. We decided to work with my concept about dependency for Hot to Trot later this year. I wanted to use the Theatre lights and try to keep all the movement within the spotlights. It was really challenging finding movement that suited the concept and trying to keep it within the light, so it was so much more interesting than you’d think something so repetitive should be. We really stretched ourselves and came up with some material that was fantastic! It was so hard to make it work without some really intense equipment use though and so eventually we had to move on. It was so good to push ourselves in a way that didn’t just involve our strength and ability, but rather how well we were able to think. Our usual art became so much more than we thought it was capable of being.

Our last day working with Lorna was amazing! We got all the fancy lighting out and we were each given the opportunity to capture our own professional shot with Lorna’s camera. We came in with our ideas and some props and worked at trying to find movement that fit with some huge pieces of material and a box of Lego. Ryan and I got to work with the material. It was my first time working with props while dancing too and so rather than just trying to find movement that made the photo look nice, I was able to learn a bit more about how difficult they are to use. Working with props is so intimidating, you have almost no control over what it will do and the picture ended up different every time. It was so much fun though. There was almost no way to tell how the photo would look as soon as you let the material do its thing. Sometimes the shots would be so weird or funny we didn’t know what to make of them, and then other times they were just stunningly beautiful. When Ryan started using the Lego while modelling we started to realise the importance of what the dancer is wearing. Ryan’s shirt was so busy that it distracted the eye from what the Lego was doing. Eventually we made him change his shirt and the photos started turning out better than we thought they would be. We all managed to get a really good shot but would’ve ended up with nothing if we hadn’t had Lorna there for the whole workshop to teach us.
We also would’ve made very little progress without Ruth there to help us come up with movement when we got stuck. When we got into it, it was really easy to find movement, but sometimes we needed a bit of a push or someone else’s perspective. It’s also important to mention how completely lost we would’ve been without that familiar, “five, six, seven, EIGHT!”

I’ve never become so interested in something so quickly before. Lorna’s passion and skill was inspiring. Her patience when teaching us made the experience relaxed, fascinating and fun. She’s a beautiful soul and working with her for a four day workshop was a gift. It was just a great thing to do and I learnt so much. I finally know what that doohickie will do.

Postscript: As well as being a dancer, and now photographer, Alana is a volunteer in our current project “Name Game”, performing at Theatre 3 19 & 20 October 2012. More here.