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The twentieth century was the era of specialization. Every field became so highly specialized and technical that only experts could master each discipline. The twenty-first century, however, is the era of collaboration. As an art critic, I’ve witnessed this comingling among different fields in the domains of advertising, cinema and photography. Some of the most talented photographers in the world work as Directors of Photography for commercials and film. Since both are primarily visual arts, one might expect a fruitful collaboration between the domains of photography and film. What is more unexpected, however, is the combination of photography and dance. No artist that I know of has pulled it off better than Richard Calmes.

An American dance photographer with a growing international reputation, Richard Calmes has  travelled all over the United States to capture the talent of some of the most gifted dancers and share it with the world. His images range from the most urban contemporary dancers in New York to the most classical dancers in Washington D.C.  He experiments with light, setting and color to capture the unique aspects of each genre of dance as well as of each dancer. His photography represents an homage to the beauty of dance as well as to the mental and physical strength and discipline it takes to be a dancer and make your body do what most of us can’t: and, what’s more, do it gracefully.

In an email exchange, Richard told me that his great admiration for dancers has a personal dimension (as well as, incidentally, a connection to my native country, Romania): “My daughter danced in Bucharest in the early 90′s. There was a dance Company here in Atlanta, Georgia founded by a Romanian, Pavel Rotaru, who was once a famous dancer there. He took them to Romania on tour and they were received with much passion. She had a great time. It was watching her grow up and improve year after year which taught me the sacrifices and love dancers have for their art!”

Richard Calmes’ images, like dance itself, are poetry in motion. They express movement, personality, character, mood and theme. His more shadowy black and white series is understated, classic and mysterious.  Most of his images, however, include striking and bright colors, to capture the drama, sensuality and passion of modern dance. And then you also have his motion or dynamic series, which trace the movements of the dancers in flight, to maintain the focus on dance as the most dynamic art form.

Featured on the covers of dance magazines as well as in gallery exhibitions, the photography of Richard Calmes shows the benefits of specialization and collaboration among the arts. This is no Marxist rotation of disciplines, where everyone purports to be good at everything: an impossible utopian goal that leads to nobody being really good at anything. Rather, Calmes’ images show the best of contemporary artistic reality at work: the most talented artists in each field working together to create something far better together than they would separately, as you can see in this video:

In my estimation, we’ll continue to see each field of art develop (both technically and artistically) and thrive in its own genre while at the same time we’ll see more and more collaborations among artists working in different domains. Soon art exhibits will no longer be held only in museums or galleries, but also in dance halls, movie theaters and concert halls. Analogously, dancers will sometimes dance at gallery exhibits, particularly when the exhibit itself focuses on the art of dance. Calmes is paving the way not only for other photographers, but also for the increasingly multidisciplinary direction of contemporary art in general. For more information about Richard Calmes’ photography, take a look at the artist’s website on the link below.


Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

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