From Darkness To Light


My dear friend Carling is a dancer and she got me introduced to Fernando. So I shot in his show, backstage and I could have asked for nothing more.

There is a certain easiness about black and white photography, something which makes you forget everything else. Its associated with intensity in your mind, not chaos but intensity. Chaos is for color. Maybe that’s the reason why I shoot mostly in monochrome, it makes things clear, it makes them refined, makes them focused.

My friend Carling is a professional jazz dancer and I had been telling her all about building my portfolio. So she introduced me to Fernando who runs a ballet school in Delhi and was having his annual showcase in a large auditorium on Mandi House Road. Now I didn’t take Delhi to be the place for ballet so I had my doubts about what I would see here.

Now Fernando is not Indian and his accent is thick so you really can’t understand what he’s saying unless you’re paying 100% attention. After trying to understand him for 5 minutes, I called in my friend to translate and voila I was allowed to shoot backstage. I mostly shoot backstage because honestly there is nothing to see once the performer is on stage in front of the audience. There is no nervousness (if there is they can’t show it) and there is no intimacy. Everything usually moves like a machine, orchestrated and defined.

But backstage, there’s another world. Full of activity and full of life. People hurrying about, voices trying to shout but have to whisper, faces in dim blue light sweating before going on stage and instructors trying to brief everyone right before they step in. Photographing here is great because everyone is too nervous or focused to pay attention to me, to my continuous snapping shutter and film winding.

Focusing was tough but I somehow got a little light on the little ballerina’s hair, just enough to find a spot to focus. Shooting with a wide open lens (f1.8) in near darkness without auto focus is really really difficult and if you make a mistake that means you’re simply going to end up with a super blurry image. And at that time I hadn’t discovered how to push films so struggling and trying (I carried a small light to help me focus) I shot a roll of Ilford 400.

It was a great show and I was forever mesmerized. I finished and looked at the contact sheet once it came back to me, I could feel the emotions of the little ballerina’s in them. Small frames in black and white, numbered, showing a story. I couldn’t have done any better at that moment, I didn’t want to. There is a certain kind of photographer who wants to photograph an event, I was not that person. I was a normal person just frantically trying to absorb the art around me, feel the artists and their emotions. I was and am not a photographer, I’m just trying to make notes.

In the end I took about 30 prints out of my 36 frames to Fernando and gifted him 5 of them. One of the shots went on to become front page on flickr with about 300 fav’s and 1500+ views.

written by abhoan on 2011-05-23 in #lifestyle #ilford #showcase #delhi #ballet #photography #analog #little #young #bhoan #dance #india #akshay #film #fernando #black #monochrome #white #grain


  1. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    amazing photos, well done

  2. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Beautiful photos!! Great work! :)

  3. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    What camera did you use?

  4. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    @ vicuna : Canon Rebel X + 50mm 1.8 on ilford 400 bw

  5. tattso
    tattso ·

    amazing amazing photos!

  6. autherous
    autherous ·

    beautiful and intriguing images. Thanks for the honest and thoughtful article!!

  7. niko_fuzzy
    niko_fuzzy ·

    wow! the shots so fantastic. f1.8 all of them?

  8. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    @ niko : i think I also used a 28-80 USM lens, a old second hand lens I picked up for 20$ =D

  9. gelibee
    gelibee ·

    Beautiful photos! :)

  10. alexccc
    alexccc ·

    These photos are simply gorgeous. Well done.

  11. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    And you know the saddest part? I've actually never seen a proper ballet performance.. there are none in India.. maybe you should buy a print so I can go to Moscow to watch a performance =)

  12. lindsayhutchens
    lindsayhutchens ·

    beautiful photos...

  13. crojasvives
    crojasvives ·

    simply beautiful :) great job

  14. nicx
    nicx ·


  15. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    You have captured the emotion of dance

  16. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    Wow, amazing pictures! I love b&w and I think it can be quite tricky to handle to make sure shots don't come out too flat- but you used the little light you had the best way possible and I love the fact that you used f1.8 which is clearly visible in your pictures...Just great!

  17. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    And, if I may add, surely the best pictures I've seen in this community so far (at least in my opinion)- they really stand out!

  18. mikeman85
    mikeman85 ·

    Wow, great series of images here. Amazing!

  19. ccooll
    ccooll ·


  20. bibipasiyeaah
    bibipasiyeaah ·


  21. rinchy
    rinchy ·

    Nice photos!!!! Nice black and white.

  22. jamdadu
    jamdadu ·

    amazing photos!

  23. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    So basically everyone will ignore my message =( sigh

  24. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    What do you mean when you say that? Why ignore?

  25. fivedayforecast
    fivedayforecast ·

    I've wanted to take pictures like this but I'm not normally around these types of events like you apparently are! I'm really really jealous!

  26. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    @ laurasulilly : means that no one read that comment i wrote "And you know the saddest part? I've actually never seen a proper ballet performance.. there are none in India.. maybe you should buy a print so I can go to Moscow to watch a performance =)"

    @ fivedayforecast : well the best way I've found is to build a circle of people who are involved with all this and BEG and POKE and PESTER them all the time to take you..

  27. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    Ah, now I get it...but well, I think you witnessed the most interesting and also most vibrant part of the whole thing, so I don't think you need to feel too sad about it ( I'm working in theatre as assistant director, so I guess I can tell- although I haven't seen a ballet performance until now either,though I'm working in theatre, shame on me) until someone buys your print so you can go to Moscow :)

  28. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    Laurasulilly ! We both need to go to Bolshoi now! With Little lomo cameras hidden inside our jackets..

  29. eremigi
    eremigi ·

    Aaaaaah finally a beautifully written article: I thoroughly enjoyed your style!
    And yes, I can sympathise with you: shooting in nearly total darkness, lens wide open, can be a nightmare. But thank goodness to the Ilford 400.
    All your photos are great - but the last one, with the silhouette of the legs in the background, the two little heads and one ear that is almost transparent to the light ... it is simply f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.

  30. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    Abhoan, I'm with you, sure thing!

  31. pomps
    pomps ·

    the photos are so beautiful as your article! love it!

  32. nock
    nock ·

    BadASS!!!! Love the photos!

  33. gm_mcleod
    gm_mcleod ·

    these are beautiful!

  34. cc-in-paris
    cc-in-paris ·

    truly beautiful pictures!

  35. titidvivant
    titidvivant ·

    thanks for the inspiration! Well done!

  36. liquorice
    liquorice ·

    Great article and amazing photos! I really enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing your experience! (:

  37. lereile
    lereile ·

    hey, i'm a teacher and work in theater and dance too, but in barcelona, not in moscow, if you pay the plain tickets i invite you to see a ballet here, what do you say???
    beautiful beautiful pictures!!!!!!!! one of the bests i've seen here, yes!

  38. abhoan
    abhoan ·

    @ lereile =D thank you, i wish I could come, I've never seen barcelona!

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