Behind the Curtains: Documenting Ballet on Film with Maggie Carey


In practicing photography and documenting our lives, we give others a sneak peak into our own realities. In Maggie Carey's case, she offers us a look into the daily experience of a professional ballet dancer, while going through the rhythms of rehearsals, backstage preparations, and on-stage performances. Using three Lomography film stocks, Maggie takes us behind the scenes into the life of a dancer with her photos shot on Earl Grey B&W, LomoChrome Purple, and Lomography Color Negative 400 film. Let's hear from Maggie and take a look at her photos!

Photos by Maggie Carey taken on Earl Grey 100 and Lomo 400 35mm film.

Hi Maggie, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work as a dancer and photographer?

Hi! My name is Maggie, I was born and raised in Ohio, and moved to San Francisco almost six years ago to follow my career as a professional ballet dancer with Smuin Ballet. I feel so fortunate that I get to capture and share the parts of my career that people don’t always see on stage — the rehearsals, backstage, the dressing rooms. Film gives a very short career the ability to live on forever. I am an incredibly nostalgic person as well, so photography has always fueled that part of my heart.

What first inspired you to dive into analogue photography?

I was first introduced to darkroom photography when I was in the 8th grade. There was something so satisfying about putting the work into capturing photos, developing and printing them in a darkroom, and then being able to physically hold the final result — all without ever knowing if the photo was going to turn out in the first place.

Photos by Maggie Carey taken on Earl Grey 100 35mm film.

How did you discover Lomography?

When I started diving deeper into film photography during college, I remember shooting a roll or two of Lomography 800. But it wasn’t until about two years ago, that a group of photographers here in San Francisco put together a LomoChrome Purple walk through Golden Gate Park and I rediscovered Lomography! From there, I started learning about all of the different film stocks that Lomography makes. It’s really exciting to see that Lomography has taken a leap into some more experimental film stocks — I think it pulls creativity out where we didn’t know it existed.

How long have you been documenting the ballet scene?

Ballet and photography started sharing space with each other when I was in high school, and during the past 10 years I have been able to turn ballet into my career. The fact that I am a dancer myself helps with the creative process in which I have created a level of trust between myself and my coworkers. This allows me to navigate the space of studios and theaters, all while understanding the musicality and timing when shooting choreographed movements. I feel very fortunate that I have a front row seat to such an intricate life.

Photos by Maggie Carey taken on Lomo 400 35mm film.

How do your two careers, ballet and photography, complement each other?

The career of a ballet dancer is so fleeting, and through photography I am able to document and freeze moments in time exactly as I remember them. When it comes to shooting, dance has taught me a lot about timing and lighting; two things that are essential in many styles of photography. Photography also has a way of becoming rhythmic just like the movement of the dancers that I capture. Whether I’m shooting dance or the world around me, I think that the musicality of dance, and timing in photography create a beautiful connective rhythm.

Photo by Maggie Carey taken on LomoChrome Purple 35mm film.

Do you have a favorite shot taken with Lomography film?

My first roll that I shot with LomoChrome Purple yielded some really beautiful photos that I was not anticipating. One of my favorites from this roll was a simple shot of the studio where I work and rehearse five days a week. The way the sunlight pours in and the stillness of the photo gives so much warmth and comfort to a place that I call home.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I am consistently inspired by the strength and beauty of my friends. The golden hour, and the way that light bends and creeps. Those who are passionate about the things they love. The power of wind. The intricacies of plants and flowers. The risk takers. Women and their resilience to the world around them. The courage of those who share their art.

Photos by Maggie Carey taken on Lomo 400 and LomoChrome Purple 35mm film.

Do you have any tips or tricks for those wanting to get into film photography?

Go for it! There is a lot of trial and error, but I think the only way to learn and get better is to just keep shooting! It is so rewarding and satisfying to simply recall life through film. Also, you don’t need an expensive camera and lens to create beautiful photographs!

Do you have any recent or upcoming projects that you'd like to share with the community?

Last summer, I had my first gallery opening and I made a book! It was something that I have always wanted to do, but the idea of putting it all together was very overwhelming to me. With the support from my partner, friends, family, and my community I was able to assemble Grainy Bits: Volume 1. With a title like that, there’s always room to continue creating. Keep your eyes out for Volume 2!

Thanks Maggie for joining us on the magazine! You can keep up with her and her work on Instagram.

written by alexa_alexiades on 2024-02-20 #culture #people #dance #ballet #documentary #lomography-color-negative #earl-grey #lomochrome-purple

Lomography Earl Grey 100 (35mm)

Add a touch of class and contrast to your shots with this majestic black and white film.


  1. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    Female ballet dancer are always mesmerizing ❤️ They are having a charismatic and loveable body language just like Tamiyo Kusakari Japanese actress who also a maestro of ballet

  2. bel_anna
    bel_anna ·

    Wonderful article and photos that remind me of my days (a long, long time ago in a different life) as a ballet student! Like photography, there is painstaking work behind the scenes to get that one moment of what some may call perfection. These shots capture both the end result, what it takes to get there, and the in between 💗

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