Finis: My Project Idea

by Christopher Duggan

This summer will be Jacob’s Pillow’s 80th Season and my seventh as Festival Photographer. My responsibilities at the Pillow have shifted since my first season.  In 2006, I was primarily hired to capture several of the events and make beauty shots of the grounds. I was welcome to shoot dress rehearsals for performances, but they didn’t really need those images.

Now I’m working there to photograph dance, the dress rehearsals for press, the school for documentation, etc. I love it, and I’m always looking to do more and find new ways to contribute.

It’s been a dream of mine to make portraits of the artists and dance portraits of the performers whenever possible, but I’ve been quite timid and shy about this endeavor. Last summer I finally got my foot in the door and asked a couple of the artists to work with me doing some creative portraiture. You can see examples of what we created on my blog:

This year I’ve already started to form ideas about a big project that excites and terrifies me. I want to photograph every dancer, student, artist, company member, staff and intern that comes to the Pillow this summer. Not to just photograph them in action at the festival, but invite them for a portrait in my not-yet-designed or constructed outdoor natural light studio.

This idea is probably crazy. One reason alone being the sheer number of potential performers. 1000? Crazy, right?

There is a historic platform behind the Ted Shawn Theatre where John Lindquist made so many images that are synonymous with Pillow history. Here are two:

My idea is to construct a white box, natural light studio and take the artists out of context. I want to do close-ups of their faces, half portraits & full-body shots, in costume, in street clothes, groups shots, moving, still and more. Not only that, but I want to be able to make portraits in just a few moments. Time is always a challenge when working at the Pillow–the artists are extremely busy and constantly being pulled in different directions.

I’ve just started to collect ideas on an inspiration board in Pinterest. Check out my board and send me your thoughts, comments, ideas. I’d love your help making this project happen!

Christopher Duggan


Contributor Christopher Duggan is the founder and principal photographer of Christopher Duggan Photography, a New York City-based wedding and dance photography studio. Duggan has been the Festival Photographer for Jacob’s Pillow Dance since 2006. In this capacity, and as a respected New York-based dance photographer, he has worked with renowned choreographers and performers of international acclaim as well as upstarts in the city’s diverse performance scene.

He has created studio shots of Gallim Dance, Skybetter +  Associates and Zvidance, among others, and in 2011 alone, he has photographed WestFest at Cunningham Studios, Dance From the Heart for Dancers Responding to Aids, The Gotham Dance Festival at The Joyce Theater, and assisted Nel Shelby Productions in filming Vail International Dance Festival.

Duggan often teams up with his talented wife and Pillow videographer Nel Shelby ( A New York City-based husband and wife dance documentation team, they are equipped to document performances, create and edit marketing videos and choreography reels, and much more.

Christopher Duggan Photography also covers Manhattan’s finest wedding venues, the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, and frequently travels to destination weddings.  The company’s mission is straightforward and heartfelt – create timeless, memorable images of brides, grooms, their families and friends, and capture special moments of shared love, laughter and joy.

His photographs appear in The New York Times, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, Munaluchi Bridal, and Bride & Bloom, among other esteemed publications and popular wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s celebrated photography collection in 2010. His company has been selected for inclusion in “The Listings” in New York Weddings magazine.

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Catherine L. Tully is the owner/editor at To learn more about Catherine and the other contributors at 4dancers, see the "Contributor" tab at the top of the page. To reach Catherine, send an e-mail to info (at) 4dancers (dot) org

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