Shooting the Light
Victoria Moore tap dancing with LED lights on her tap shoes.
Learning To Take the Subject While Being the Subject
I've always loved photography. It's a language I can relate to notwithstanding my lack of skills as a photographer. Still I enjoy taking photos and have consistently reported on my life in Los Angeles for about 20 years now. It all started with the Canon AE-1 35 mm camera my mother gave me one Christmas. I still use it, and it's been an able assistant helping me to illustrate my articles and fill a growing collection of photo albums. To acquire the knowledge required to enjoy it properly I've taken a few photography classes, with my Photojournalism course through UCLA Extension, being one of the most beneficial thus far. Once I got my Canon Power Shot A490 digital camera, however, I started searching for a class that would help me understand how to use it to its best advantage. Then when Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center offered "Shooting the Light" a five-week photography course sponsored by Elizabeth's Canvas and taught by Alexander Hall I immediately signed up for it.
During a real nail-biting period, while I was on the waiting list, I gave up on my dream of actually taking it from January 27 to February 24 until I got the call one night saying that I was in! It was unfortunate that the person I was replacing couldn't be part of it at the time, but since it was offered consecutively after that, I'm sure they got the chance.
Before we officially started our first class, in the activity room, Andrew gave us a preliminary demonstration which included watching a series of photos taken with the technique of a factory worker, Picasso creating a masterpiece and an ice skater skating.
"Wouldn't it be cool if someone captured a tap dancer like that?", I thought when I saw the last clip.
After looking at the slide show we then went into our space. Laid out on a table, on the right side of the room were light sabers, glow sticks, clickers and other LED props Andrew had brought in for us to use. He told us to experiment with different ones so that we could get used to working with them.
"If you have anything at home that makes rhythm you're welcome to bring them in and we'll experiment with them too," he said.
Well the only thing I have that makes rhythm are my tap shoes, so I asked him if I could bring those and my tap board in.
"Yes that would be great!," he said.
On the day of my "performance" I was really nervous until Andrew put down my board and taped the lights (blue on one and white on the other) onto the toes of my tap shoes. He then set the Leica at various speeds and asked me to demonstrate different steps. We decided I'd shuffle back and forth-ta-da-da-ta, ta-da-da-ta-until we got what we wanted. The results were amazing and subtle with a fairy tale quality reminiscent of water sprites and soft mists.
Besides tap I also combined the modern and improvisational dance moves I learned in Jan Day's classes at CSULA with my new skills. While Andrew instructed us to strive for "controlled movement" I heard Jan say in my head, "Don't ever make a gesture without motivation". By adhering to this advice whenever I flowed back and forth and swayed from side to side with my LED lights I entered a new dimension. Instead of just taking pictures I became them.
Due to the attention Andrew wanted to give each of us, and the size of the classroom, the class was limited to 12 students. We were divided into two groups, from the beginning, and given the change to create two images. The most fascinating part of the whole process was that everyone's efforts reflected their personality. In-class photos were only part of the class since we had to do homework on our own. I don't remember how many times I tried to get what Andrew wanted with my digital camera but when I finally did I felt like I'd won the lottery.To achieve the images required I had to go out at night and find a street with neon lights and traffic them move my camera just so. Finally after almost getting my camera stolen by a couple of bike riding thieves I went back to my old neighborhood, stood on the corner, panned slowly and seized magic.
Another requirement was to enroll on flickr as a group so that others could see what we were doing in class. Working together, on our final photos too, also gave us a change to express the sense of community we already feel at CSC-BC. My favorites were the interlocking progression of stars and hearts we made by drawing the shapes in the air with Andrew's LED lights.
The real culmination of the class, however, was the "Painting With Light" exhibit at "Yogaworks" (1426 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, CA.) on May 12 from 7:15-9:30 pm. A complete representation of his "Shooting the Light" classes was shown after Andrew selected a large cross section of our photos then to put them on display. I'm very proud to say that my tap dancing photo made the cut!
Elegantly arranged on custom-made screens all of our photos looked unbelievably beautiful. To make it easier to find them Andrew placed our first name underneath each one. Overflowing with friends, family and other guests the exhibit was a wonderful way to commemorate our experience. As I explained to those who asked me how my photo was executed I realized that the true benefit of the class was that it allowed me to focus on creating art despite my struggles with breast cancer.