Monday, June 9, 2008

They Shoot Bellydancers, Don't They?

I photograph a lot of bellydancers. A lot of bellydancers. I was checking my Adobe Bridge folders the other day and the subfolders of the dancer shoots are on the verge of getting out of control… in a good way.

I think part of the reason I photograph so many dancers is that I’m one myself. I’m there with them in class, so there’s really no middleman in terms of referrals. The owners of the studio where I dance are very supportive and help host photo events for me to document the dancers. Plus the women are comfortable with me. It’s not just the potential creepy vibe they avoid… I’m a woman and I am dealing with the same body issues and hang-ups they are dealing with.
But what I really love about photographing bellydancers is this… It’s the virtually the same script every time:

1. They come in and start making excuses… “I really should have waited until I lost 5 more pounds” or “This is going to be tough for you… I’m not at all photogenic”, … You get the idea.
2. I start snapping away, giving them tips & suggestions… sometimes if they’re really nervous, I’ll hand them their favorite prop --- a veil, a flower for their hair --- or sometimes I just make the suggestion that I’m going to start reciting dirty limericks… Anything to get them out of their head for just a moment.
3. And this is where the beauty of digital comes in… I turn the camera around and give them a preview of what I had just captured. There’s a pause and sometimes a slight look of shock and then the remark that makes it all worthwhile: “That’s me?” “Yes gorgeous, that’s you.”

It’s an honor when you get to see a woman realize her own beauty… and I love being a part of that.

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