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Dancers on Film

Photographer Lois Greenfield specializes in capturing flight


By capturing a split second of motion and infusing it with a clarity of design that the naked eye might miss, Lois Greenfield has created her own realm of photography. In her photos, dancers' bodies display an endless variety of eye-catching and seemingly impossible shapes and gravity-defying situations.

Greenfield is of the rare breed of photographers whose work is appreciated both by art aficionados and the general public. Most people recognize her black-and-white prints, in particular her shot of dancer Daniel Ezralow, frozen in an elongated running position, his naked baby perched tummy-down on his extended hand and looking directly into the camera, unfazed by the precarious position. Also familiar are her shots for watchmaker Raymond Weil's ad campaign, which ran prominently in major fashion magazines; the photos, involving acrobatic maneuvers that placed the subjects' bodies seemingly within a hair's breadth of each other, seemed the result of PhotoShop wizardry. They weren't.

St. Louisans will have a chance to glean insight into Greenfield's methods during a slide presentation at the opening of her dance-photography exhibit Friday night at the Center of Contemporary Arts. "I will be showing about 120 slides," she says, "and talking about the evolution of my ideas about dance photography since I stopped photographing during dress rehearsals. I explain my working method, both the techniques and, more importantly, the process."

Working out of her studio in New York City, Greenfield handles dancers differently than a photojournalist might. She once traveled that road, working for more than a decade documenting the emerging modern- and postmodern-dance scene for the Village Voice. Now, though, the dancers come to her, on her terms, to create pictures that stand as art, pieces that transcend mere documentation.

"My photographic concern changed from documenting choreography to creating new imagery that cannot be seen on any stage," says Greenfield. "Although photographing movement is my passion, I've come to realize that my photographs are really about time. I seem to arrest time by slicing it into split-second fragments that are imperceptible to the naked eye. The thinner the slice of time in my photos, the more solid the fleeting gestures appear on paper."

Greenfield will be showing 24 photos at the St. Louis show, most coming from her latest book, Airborne, though others are from her earlier compilation, Breaking Bounds, and still others from elsewhere. If you are considering going to the exhibit but aren't sure about the subject matter, visit Greenfield's Web site,, for a look at some of her latest photos from Airborne and elsewhere.

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