Poetry in motion
A dancer-turned-photographer finds beauty in movement
(Travis Magee) After several successful decades on the stage, Magee suffered a foot injury while dancing for Lucinda Childs. It was a friend that encouraged him to turn his personal passion into his full-time focus."I was ready (to transition to photography) because I had never stopped shooting," Magee says. "In fact, I had spent years playing and experimenting — without oversight from clients or critics. It allowed me to develop my own distinct voice and style."
(Travis Magee) That distinctive style features choreographed images of dancers Magee recruits from esteemed companies such as Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, and the New York City Ballet."I start with the concept and mood of the photograph," Magee says. "I'll say something like, 'Imagine you are knocked over by the wind,' and they will give their impression of that feeling."The resulting images look as if a master retoucher has spent hours in Photoshop creating composites. And yet the reality is so much more incredible: the dancers' beautifully contorted bodies — leaping, twisting, and elegantly falling — miraculously captured in one click.
(Travis Magee)But such apparent ease comes with incredible patience and work on both sides of the lens. Acting as both photographer and director, Magee has the dancers repeat the process again and again, adjusting their movements with each attempt, until he gets the perfectly orchestrated frame."Sometimes a giant leap that is breathtaking in real life looks dull in a photograph," Magee says. "Inversely, the smallest gesture can look tremendous (on film)."Indeed, Magee's final images feel like a stop-action dream. Bodies are forever frozen diving into cornfields, or buried in the sand, caught between beauty and anguish. And that's the point, Magee says."(In dance), I was taught to take a small moment in time and turn it into an entire story. I find no difference when photographing a human body," he says. "Joy, pain, love, every other human emotion can be told in a fraction of a second."
(Travis Magee)**A solo show of Magee's work, First Breath, is on view now at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery, at the Lincoln Center**