It is between the observing eye and the finger flicking over the camera’s shutter button that movement bustles. How does one turn a photograph – the art of freezing the moment – into movement? How does one translate dancing, a movement which is alive for a moment while disappearing and becoming a memory, into a still picture hanging on the wall?
An exhibition of photographs by legendary Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, which opened Tuesday at the Suzanne Dallal Center in Tel Aviv, makes still images dance.
The body of the dancers he photographed in the past 10 years turns into brush strokes thanks to the slow exposure.
“I watch the movement from the point of view of a painter,” he says. “It’s the angle of light that falls on the dancers, it’s the blurry parts of the body, that turn in the darkroom into an abstract painting. It’s a magical moment.”
This is Baryshnikov’s fourth time in Israel. His previous visits included an intimate performance with dancer Ana Laguna and a theater production staged by Dmitry Krymov. This time he arrived as a photographer and philanthropist.
Baryshnikov’s signed dance photos will be sold to the highest bidder as the exhibition closes Saturday, and proceeds will help support young Israeli dancers.
“Knowing that my pictures will help create new dances and encourage young artists makes me very happy,” he says. “I was very impressed by the vitality of the Israeli dance, by that ‘chutzpa’, in a good sense, which one cannot miss in Israeli choreography.
“And there is of course the driving force, Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company, and the unusual group of dancers gathered around him. The amount of talent he attracts is amazing. It’s fascinating watching this group of dancers who arrived in Israel from all over the world thanks to him.”
His affair with the art of photography began about a decade ago. A friend of his, a photographer, pleaded with him to take a small Nikon camera on his world tours. Baryshnikov agreed. When he returned home from one of his trips with 20 black and white rolls of camera film, he realized that he had become addicted.
“I hadn’t held a camera in my hands since I was a kid. In fact, when I was 10 I got a camera as a gift but never took this whole thing seriously. But suddenly something happened. The moment when you are alone with the camera film in the darkroom is near magic.”