Inspired by Collaboration

My minds eye for Dance Photography was to capture that moment of form. Following Mary Miller & Charles Hall as they created a new performance for the Nandanik Dance Festival. I witnessed talented professional artists building a performance.

02
Creative collaboration is a dynamic process especially when the artists involved have known & worked together for 20 years. Mary has danced professionally since 1967. Her work in Modern Dance doesn’t mimic what others do. In Charles’ career as a musician, he has had many opportunities to work with Mary as an accompanist at classes, with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Civic Light Opera & many site-specific theater performances.

03
The essential musical talent Charles brought to the development of this work was his drumming. However, his presence on stage & interaction with the drums became an integral part of the choreography. Mary was the motivator of movement. Their ideas merged & evolved as I experienced more than just a few chances to capture some photographs.

04
In the rehearsal studios of Point Park University, where Charles is an accompanist, Mary guided the staging & basic flow of the piece. Charles was nurturing not only the live voices of the drums but a soundtrack he would record to add another musical layer. Watching the free flow of ideas between these professionals as they cultivated their options during run-throughs was intriguing.

05
Mary likes working with people who don’t take themselves to seriously because they are more open to what they will experiment with. During her career, she has worked with poets, fiber artists, sculptors & other artistic partners. Talking with Charles about the collaboration he immediately remarked upon the importance of trusting the other people. They must be invested in working together & listening to all ideas.

07
Mary’s interaction with the drums & music developed into a vehicle for Charles. As the design of the piece came together, his character observed her & the drums with trepidation. Until, with her enticement, he became comfortable with making his own music. Their combined interaction added emotion & character to the work now titled “Friendship”. The resulting music at the hands of Charles unlocked the movements Mary had been walking thru. In true Miller style the performance with a live musician was much deeper than possible with just pre-recorded music.

08
With opening night a few days away the Tech Rehearsal at Carnegie Library & Music Hall, they went over the props, audio & lighting with stage manager Joan Greenwood. With as much combined experience as both Mary & Charles have they realize the importance of coordinating with “the house” to put the final details on their work.

09
The difference between the rehearsal studio & the tech run-thru on stage is significant. It isn’t just because of the lights, audio & space. This is where the final decisions are agreed upon while defining positions in the actual environment. Their movements in their final rehearsal became even more precise as the performance was almost at hand.

09a
It is difficult to say if it was decades of experience, self-confidence or the diversity of her career that leaped out as she began polishing the final touches on “Friendship” during the Tech. It was obvious Mary was headed for a new crescendo I had not yet seen. Even though I had watched the piece develop I was anxious to see the final result.

09b
With the background soundtrack complete Charles was confident in what they had forged from their ideas. He had channeled his initial reluctance to be moving around on the stage into a motivation for his character.

10a
“Friendship” had become more than contemporary dance. It was a musical performance. It was theater. The drums weren’t just instruments & props. They played a supporting role. The collaboration of vision, experience, talent & trust was now what I was seeing.

11
The night of the performance the dancer, the musician & the drum ended the work by exiting stage right as they had done in rehearsals. This time they had a little more spring in their step. The culmination of all of their work & molding of ideas had reached the inevitable conclusion with style.

12
After returning to the stage for their bows they each stepped back gesturing to the now static & silent drums acknowledging the role they had played. They had not done this in rehearsals but I was ready & got the shot. Not what I had originally envisioned but I captured my moment of form for a scene that was part of a very human story.

Eye catchers

Sometimes a picture just makes you smile. Oftentimes it makes you think. I hope signs that caught my eye motivate a smile.

01 CoCo Nuts
Since misspelling is a personal flaw, I feel better knowing I’m not alone. In this case I wonder if it was part of a design to get attention. Being someplace where you see this sign instead of “Bridge Freezes Before Road Surface” is not a bad thing.

02
On my trip to Cuba I frequently saw similar signs offering service to repair tires. At first I thought this was an unusual business. However as I got a better feel for the culture I realized that it was typical of the way people find a way to re-use everything. Few things are completely discarded.

03Liquors s
Hanging a sign outside of your place of business may be the oldest form of advertising. Doing street photography at night my eyes are drawn to how some lighted signs dominate a small spot on a corner. The window light in the upper right hand corner adds an unusual balance to the frame. This shot also makes me wonder if liquor comes in any other container than bottles.

04 junkmail
Most signs are for everyone to see. This sign is intended for just 1 individual. I love the fact it is not a hand-written message. It is a very formal presentation but it isn’t centered! Although it is a very common sentiment, by federal law postal employees are not allowed to make these decisions.

05 Barber sized
The word-free barber pole is a symbol that has conveyed a message since the Middle Ages. It also has evolved in meaning & design. The original red & white helix of colors represented a craftsman who would cut hair, pull teeth, perform surgery & do blood letting. In the US a patriotic blue stripe was added & they were put on motors creating an eye-catching optical illusion.

06
Way back in time, movie production companies owned many of the theaters that showed their films in addition to having actors under exclusive contracts. They owned the product & controlled distribution to maximize profit & stifle competition. Paramount was, & still is, a force in entertainment although business models have changed dramatically. While many cities had/have Paramount Theaters, Pittsburgh never did.

07
Before theaters with dozens of screens, the marquee of a theater not only identified the film playing but also listed the actors. As the multi-screen facilities have replaced the grand movie houses of the past the marquees only have the names of the films being shown. Gone are the days when the stars of the film had their names in lights.

08 Cleaners
If a sign or a photograph makes you smile that is a good thing. If you use the service & can remember where it is located it’s even better for the owner.

09 Nice Things
The message on a sign can also cause you to see something from a different perspective. In this case it made it harder for me to ignore the deteriorated environment without thinking of the individuals living there. It is a very valid question. If we try to understand the question the problem might be solved.

10 showgirls
Often these types of businesses are hidden or in very isolated places with an alluded name or message. Here on a major street in SFO there is no doubt. Subtle is not part of their marketing effort.

11 Diner
Immediately when I saw this sign on Bourbon St in New Orleans I knew it was a diner and I knew what the type of menu I would find. It is curious how graphic design can be so powerful.

Mixed Messagesized
Blame it on my degree in Visual Communications but I have spent more time than necessary trying to understand these symbols. I know the meaning of both & have used them appropriately. Why are they vertical on just the passenger side when a balanced horizontal placement on either side of the vehicle would be better? The juxtaposition of messages is confusing. Is this an indicator of the different views of the occupants of the car? Is the viewer supposed to read top to bottom or vice versa? Is the owner bi-polar? I understand the shinny rotating barber pole much better.