by Christopher Duggan
It’s Jacob’s Pillow‘s 80th anniversary, and if you’ve had the chance to visit the Pillow, you’ll know that every year Norton Owen creates a beautiful exhibit in Blake’s Barn. This summer’s exhibit is the Decades of Dance and features photographs spanning the festival’s 80 years. I’ve always been inspired by these historic photographs on the Pillow grounds, and this summer I decided to create a personal project surrounding some of my favorite iconic images.
When The Horse’s Mouth program was presented this summer, taking advantage of the connection to Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers was a no-brainer. We were trying to do something interesting with the group to showcase that Ted Shawn was a pioneer for male performers. We recreated the famous photo of the Men Dancers in their bathrobes.
I wanted to recreate in the spirit of the original image and then we made another photo, because I wanted to give it my own spin with the creativity of the dancers.
That photo shoot got my juices going. I had always loved an iconic image of Ruth St. Denis from 1950 in this beautiful dress. When I saw Jessica Lang’s dance with the white dress by Elena Comendador, I thought “Oh my God, I wonder if she’ll be willing…”
The third and final “Then & Now” from this summer is tribute to a gorgeous picture by John Lindquist of a dancer on the Ted Shawn Theater with the doors open (a lot of people think it was taken on Inside/Out, but this was before the outdoor stage existed).
When I found out that The Joffrey Ballet was going to be in the Ted Shawn Theater and the company planned to open the back barn doors for one of their dances, I was overjoyed. I’ve been waiting for six weeks to make that picture. I was just getting in my mind how I’d execute the photo and things started to unravel. The Joffrey didn’t open the doors because it was too cold, and there were several floor lights on the edge of the stage that would alter the shot. There were so many factors that would make it difficult to recreate the photo that I gave up on the idea. But while the dance photography workshop was going on, I was walking by the theater, and they had just finished company class. I went on stage and showed the photo to one of the dancers on my iPhone, and we went for it.
If you visit Jacob’s Pillow, you’ll notice that every room in every building on campus has photographs on the wall. It’s so obvious that photographs are our window into the past, the living legacy of the festival. I honor that, I’m intimidated by that, and I’m proud of that. This was a way to connect to the past and to leave my own mark.
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 (http://nelshelby.com). 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.