by Christopher Duggan
I had been dreaming for a few seasons about making portraits of the incredible dancers, choreographers and artists that come to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival each week. In 2012 I put it into action: the Natural Light Studio.
There is a deck right behind the Ted Shawn Theatre where dance photographer John Lindquist used to make images. I was lucky that the space was available for me to set up a simple but effective natural light soft box and backdrop.
I made over 200 portraits that summer— between mainstage companies, School participants, faculty, Inside/Out artists, staff, interns, my daughter…
During the 2012 season, I was a faculty member for a dance photography workshop at the festival. The workshop was directed by dance photographer Rose Eichenbaum, and she asked all of us to describe our photography in one word. I thought a lot about it, and the word I chose was joyous. That’s my approach to all of my photography, both dance and weddings. I’m looking to have fun and see the joy inside of people. That doesn’t mean I want big cheesy smiles—I want to capture the joy created by being who you are.
I wanted every person I invited into the studio to have the space to emerge, to really be seen for who they are. In the spirit of the Pillow, in the spirit of creativity, in the spirit of collaboration, and in the spirit of making art together.
Other people have picked up on the fact that I always say let’s “make” pictures. I don’t “take” pictures. It’s semantics, but it’s true—when I work with dancers, choreographers, brides, friends…we “make” something together. And that’s what I felt like I achieved this summer in my Natural Light Studio. Whether dancing or more pedestrian, I was approaching the sessions in the same way, and different people brought different things to the table.
I’d say the summer was a success. And I can’t wait to expand on the project this season.
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.