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Personal Projects: Photographing Dance, and Reaching Higher

By David Schonauer   Thursday January 28, 2021

“As long as I take pictures I think I will always be considering and reconsidering my vision and why I am compelled to create the photos I create.” So writes Seattle-base photographer and PPD reader Steve Korn. Last March we featured a series Korn created focusing on faces. Today we his series on dancer Lisa Kwak. “Dancers represent craft, dedication, struggle and artistic expression, while also using the most basic canvas, one that all of us own, to create lines and forms, to defy gravity, to connect ourselves to ourselves and with one another, the human body,” notes Korn. He discusses the series below.

It’s easy to create competent photographs.  Good exposure, color and tones…maybe an attractive subject...  What’s not easy is creating images that have depth, meaning and reflect the artists’ vision.  When vision combines with craft and skill, the result is usually satisfying.  Minus the vision, it’s a little like eating a cake that is nothing but frosting. It looks good before cutting into it, but once sliced we see there’s nothing holding up the sugary topping…no substance.  However, a photo strong on vision but short on technical skill is still a good photo, just like plain old cake usually hits the spot.



As long as I take pictures I think I will always be considering and reconsidering my vision and why I am compelled to create the photos I create.  My photos are a reflection of me and as I learn more about myself my vision becomes clearer, sometimes augmenting an aesthetic, sometimes learning to let one go. I feel like my photographic vision resides in a couple of different worlds.  I like photos that tell me something about the subject, what they do, what they’re passionate about, anything that encourages me to think about their journey. Seeing other’s struggles and successes encourages us to keeping moving forward, exploring, reaching higher on our own paths.


On the other hand, I also like to make photographs where the subject is really an object; a humanizing source of line and form that in a fundamental way, every person can relate to. What they do and who they are doesn’t really matter, just that they are and that they represent humanness.

One of the reasons I like to shoot dancers is that these two concepts often intersect. Dancers represent craft, dedication, struggle and artistic expression, while also using the most basic canvas, one that all of us own, to create lines and forms, to defy gravity, to connect ourselves to ourselves and with one another, the human body.

My shoot with dancer, Lisa Kwak is no different. The concept is simple: to contrast the lines of flowing, baggy, chaotic, oversized clothing with the defined, organic lean lines of the human form. Superficially it’s interesting, but there’s something deeper.  Because what Lisa does is amazing, we are in awe of her ability, can see her dedication and appreciate that although most of us can’t do what Lisa does, Lisa, a person, can. That says so much, not only about Lisa, but about the potential within each of us.  With this in mind, I’ve tried to create two layers in my images of Lisa.  Viscerally, we respond to the color, the lines, the energy, while cerebrally, we can see that Lisa represents skill, dedication, artistry, and human potential.
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Got a personal project you’d like us to consider featuring? Contact the editor and let us know about it.

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