And Holly Andres is not a sports photographer. Forget about pom-poms, short skirts, and, well, cheering. Acro is about acrobatics, girl power, and tumbling! Read more about it here as we celebrate International Dance Day.
The new sport of acro—short for “acrobatics and tumbling”—wants to distance itself from its roots in cheerleading. None of the glittery make-up and bare midriffs, and all of the fitness and sportsmanship.
Similarly, photographer Holly Andres wanted to avoid cheerleading photography. None of the plastic smiles and rah rah rahs, and all the form and sequences in stark black-and-white.
“The night before, I was really struggling with how I was going to pull this off,” says Andres whose usual style consists of elaborate sets and directed subjects. She says the idea came to her in her sleep, recalling Leni Riefenstahl’s photographs of divers from the 1937 Olympics.
“I was thinking about the way that she shot really low angles and exposed for the sky in such a way that the athletes looked like these graphic objects. I thought if I could just get them outside and shoot from a low angle I could probably get a more compelling shot than shooting in the gym.”
She was able to shoot the high-flying athletes from a low angle on the University of Oregon’s football field and the results look amazing in high-contrast monochrome. The minimalist theme is also apparent in the succeeding shots as the team practiced inside the gym. Andres was able to capture moments and movements against a white seamless wall and the light gray of their gym mats using seven strobe lights.
Covering an acro team changed Andres’ thoughts about the sport. “The fact that there were no male team members and that they were the ones who were throwing and hoisting their fellow team members in the air was really interesting,” she says. “Certainly it challenged some of my preexisting ideas or stereotypes about cheerleaders.” So don’t be mislead!