SHAWN BYRON DANKER
// Shawn is a Singaporean photographer and photo journalist. In one of his long-term passion projects, he photographs dancers outside their usual environment: in the street and in public spaces. Although he shoots all genres of dance, for this feature we selected a set of his stunning jazz and tap dance photos.
When he is not shooting documentary photojournalism, Shawn uses film theory when scouting locations and planning his photo-shoots. He likes his photos to have some visual tension, to convey emotion, and to be contextually meaningful. A lot of thought goes into planning a particular shooting session.
“Light is everywhere. You just need to know when and how to use it appropriately.”
Shawn Byron Danker
What draws you to the arts?
“I love the sense of drama and deep connection to the masses that good art is always able to do. That is what motivates me make sure my imagery leave a strong lasting impression on the viewer.”
What impresses you most about dance?
“Dance is not just about movement. Dance is also about what Jay Maisel and sketch artists would call gesture. I’ve always loved watching dance; it is literally poetry in motion that celebrates life and the human form.”
There is a difference between street dance (of which there are many genres) and dancing in the streets. Shawn also photographs street dance, as a look at his website will show, but what is more remarkable is that he also takes classic stage dance genres, such as ballet, jazz, and tap out into public areas, where he juxtaposes the dancers against everyday backdrops.
Because for him the location has meaning, in his shots he uses a relatively open aperture of F4, which still allows the background to stay visible where an even wider aperture would blur it out. The backdrop helps set the mood, and Shawn only gives minimal direction to the dancers. He will tell jazz dancers, for example, to seduce and invite their audiences into their parlour “femme fatale” style. For tap dance, his direction amounts to telling the dancer to be as flashy as possible, because the genre calls for it.
What Shawn looks for when deciding on a location are elements such as the quality of light and shadows, the colours, the shapes and structures that will provide maximum visual impact to a scene. For example, when placing a dancer in front of a mural, he either wants the subject to look like an element of the painting, or to form a contrast to it. Just look at his photos and compare the colours and postures of the dancers to the environmental background. It is this visual juxtaposition that makes Shawn´s photography so engaging and striking.
Shawn´s pictures have been exhibited in Singapore and published internationally in print publications. His dance photography project is ongoing – revisit his page now and again to see more of his amazing dance photography.
Click on the photos to see the full image.