Dancers among us: Photoseries by Jordan Matter

A woman performing an arabesque in the midst of a barren construction land of grey asphalt, a man taking a full split in the air, celebrating the glory of the Chicago Cubs in front of a luminescent board of the stadium, the free spirit of a girl taking a leap on the beach, and many more dancers in a daily life scenario are captured by dance photographer Jordan Matter as a part of his photo project Dancers among us.

He is known as the ‘people’s photographer’, successfully capturing different emotions, moods and feelings in the form of dance. Jordan Matter is a photographer in New York City and the photographer/author of the stunning book Dancers Among Us, A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday. A base ball player and a theater actor, Jordan discovered his passion for dance photography after viewing an exhibit by photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson. Moved by the stories of humanity the images portrayed, he picked up the camera first as a hobby, then as a passion. His photography venture kick started after clicking his friend, a dancer, during his routine.

Soon after, he devised various themes of dance photography.’ Dancers among us’ is one of the most unique photo projects where he captures elite professional dancers as subjects with the backdrop of a scene from daily life. It aims on the restoration of the concept of ‘Joy in everyday’, where the chains of monotony don’t exist and you can tap dance your way happily through the days to come. Eager to know what brought the thought of such a refreshing theme of dance photography and as an answer to one of the biggest questions asked by many people , here’s what Jordan has to say

The inspiration for this book came to me one afternoon as I watched my son, Hudson, playing with his toy bus. I was trying to keep pace with his three-year-old mind as he got deeper and deeper into a fantasy involving nothing more than a yellow plastic box and armless figurines. At least that’s what I saw. He saw frantic commuters rushing to catch the 77 local bus to Australia. He jumped in place, mouth open and slapping his knees, joyously reacting to a world I couldn’t see, but one powerfully present for him.

What happens to this enthusiasm, this ability to be wholly present in the moment? Why are these pure moments of passion so often replaced with cynicism, boredom, and indifference? As I played with my son, I thought about creating photographs that would show the world as if through his eyes. The people in the images would be alive and in the moment, celebrating all aspects and emotions of everyday life. Shortly after playing “bus”, I attended an extraordinary dance performance, and I knew I had found my collaborators.

Jordan calls the social media one of his biggest strengths as it aided him in gathering a community of dancers, from across the nation, by the means of a single tweet or Facebook status. The setup revolves around story telling through different dance forms with a background which could be the busy streets of  Times Square, the beaches of Miami, a footpath or a bath tub as well. On the essence of dance and the movement of the photo project, this is Jordan’s take:

Dancers are storytellers. They’re trained to capture passion with their bodies. They often create a fantasy world or offer us a deeper look into familiar settings. They bring to life what we feel but what most of us, lacking their artistry and athleticism, are unable to express physically. I spent three years shooting dancers around the country, and I was humbled by their enthusiasm for their craft. I would tweet and Facebook when I would arrive in a city, and dancers would volunteer their time to pose for me, often traveling several hours to participate. The idea of using dancers to embody joy in everyday moments came to me, and I asked Jeffrey if he could get me access to the Paul Taylor Company, which, incredibly, he did, and 10 of their dancers volunteered their time over the summer in 2009 to walk around with me as this idea was formulating itself. I didn’t really know what it was at first, and then as we would shoot over and over it became more clear what the direction was—it was really them, their immense talent that allowed me to use my imagination and then they could do what I saw in my head.

His entire collection of photographs showcases frames in different climatic conditions as well, one of my personal favorites is where a lady in heels is taking a high jump on the streets of Denver while it’s pouring heavily. To imagine the effort, the planning and the risk behind every breath taking shot delivered by Jordan Matter gives you an adrenaline rush in itself. The intricacy of the shoot makes it possible to achieve 6 perfect captures per day according to the duration of the shoot. For young photographers and those interested in knowing about the camera, Jordan is a Nikon shooter and uses the 14 to 24 2.8 lens to achieve the wide eye look of the frame. The photographs aren’t  edited much, apart from adding a vignette to enhance the photo quality along with putting emphasis on the subject.  ‘Athletes among us’ , ‘Dancers in Dark’, ‘Tiny Dancers Among Us’ and ‘Circus among us’ are a few of his other projects which cover other genres of Dance Photography, but are emboldened with the same motto of capturing free spirits.

“If you’re breathing,” Matter says in his Twitter profile, “I want to photograph you.”

IMAGE COURTESY – Jordan Matter



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