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The Art of Photographing Dance at Jacob’s Pillow

I’ve spent more than thirty years as a dance photographer. It’s been my passion and my life’s work. For me, there’s no greater thrill than to capture the beauty, grace and power of the dancer. It also gives me great satisfaction to share what I’ve learned along the way. What an honor it's been to serve as director of The Art of Photographing Dance Workshop at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

My vision for the workshop was as an artist’s retreat— a six-day immersion to promote creativity and explore new ways of thinking and practicing the art of photography. Amidst the beauty of the Berkshires, “The Pillow” is by its very nature a place of artistry, spirituality and inspiration. Where better to examine artistic goals, elevate technical skills and set a course for one’s future?

With a backdrop of live dance performances, archival resource material and inspirational exhibitions, participants broaden their knowledge of theatrical dance, learn how to effectively photograph movement, gesture and action and further evolve as artists/image makers. And, at the same time, develop friendships and a community with others dance loving photographers.

Our faculty members, highly gifted resident Pillow photographer Christopher Duggan, and photographer and tech master Whitney Browne, offer participants their vast experience, knowledge and complete undivided attention.

In developing the workshop’s curriculum, I knew immediately that I needed to establish three important parameters—exercising one’s skill sets to their fullest, understanding the essential components that define the photographic medium and, having an awareness of one’s true intention behind the camera—why do you shoot and what are you trying to say through your images? It’s the integration and implementation of these parameters that produce images that successfully communicate ideas, messages, tell stories, convey emotions and dazzle the eye.

Photo assignments range from shooting potential magazine covers and environmental portraits to fine art museum quality images. Exercises include isolating a single principle of the medium such as composition or lighting, and using it like a painter might select color and texture to convey mood or drama. Working to define one’s own style and aesthetic is built into every photo assignment. Early-Bird Shoots in which photographers are asked to venture out in the early morning hours to embrace the day with fresh restorative eyes in search of shape, line and pattern has become one of the workshop’s signatures.

What makes The Art of Photographing Dance Workshop at Jacob’s Pillow truly unique is the ability for students to engage in artistic collaboration with its world-class visiting artists. In past years, our students have worked closely with the dancers of The Joffrey Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Abraham.In.Motion, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Madboots Dance and many other extraordinary performers.

There’s nothing more exciting than to see our workshop participants--professionals, amateurs and beginners experience those wondrous "ah-ha!" moments—when ideas and skills merge to produce visually stunning and evocative images. It’s been particularly gratifying to have participants return year after year to continue the process of learning and self-discovery.

For many, The Art of Photographing Dance Workshop has been a life-changer. It’s not unusual to hear comments like: "Taking this workshop energized my creative drive and transformed my approach to image-making," "After taking this workshop I quit my day job and devoted myself entirely to making art," and "I arrived at the workshop a total beginner and left an artist."

If you love dance, own a decent camera and are looking for an extraordinary experience—please come join us! Learn more and sign up here.

All rights reserved. All photographs and text included herein are the property of Rose Eichenbaum.