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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

38 comments

  1. disasterarea

    disasterarea

    amazing photos, well done

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. vicuna

    vicuna

    Beautiful photos!! Great work! :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. vicuna

    vicuna

    What camera did you use?

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. abhoan

    abhoan

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  5. tattso

    tattso

    amazing amazing photos!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  6. autherous

    beautiful and intriguing images. Thanks for the honest and thoughtful article!!
    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  7. niko_fuzzy

    niko_fuzzy

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  9. gelibee

    gelibee

    Beautiful photos! :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  10. alexccc

    alexccc

    These photos are simply gorgeous. Well done.
    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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 =)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  12. lindsayhutchens

    lindsayhutchens

    beautiful photos...

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  13. crojasvives

    crojasvives

    simply beautiful :) great job

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  14. nicx

    nicx

    Fanatastic

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  15. lomodesbro

    lomodesbro

    You have captured the emotion of dance

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  18. mikeman85

    mikeman85

    Wow, great series of images here. Amazing!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  19. ccooll

    ccooll

    Amazing!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  20. bibipasiyeaah

    bibipasiyeaah

    beautiful!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  21. rinchy

    rinchy

    Nice photos!!!! Nice black and white.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  22. jamdadu

    jamdadu

    amazing photos!
    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  23. abhoan

    abhoan

    So basically everyone will ignore my message =( sigh

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  24. laurasulilly

    laurasulilly

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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..

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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 :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  28. abhoan

    abhoan

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  30. laurasulilly

    laurasulilly

    Abhoan, I'm with you, sure thing!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  31. pomps

    pomps

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  32. nock

    nock

    BadASS!!!! Love the photos!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  33. gm_mcleod

    gm_mcleod

    these are beautiful!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  34. cc-in-paris

    cc-in-paris

    truly beautiful pictures!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  35. titidvivant

    titidvivant

    thanks for the inspiration! Well done!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  36. liquorice

    liquorice

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  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!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  38. abhoan

    abhoan

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

    over 3 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish, Italiano & Deutsch.