Limelight: Chris Herzfeld
Chris Herzfeld is an Adelaide based photographer and one of Australia's best-known dance photographers.
When did you first become interested in photography?
Dad always had cameras around the house so I started playing with them at a very early age and it progressed from there. I was able to start developing my own pictures at age 6.
Do you come from an artistic family?
My father was a cinematographer/photographer and my brother is a self taught artist and musician.
What path did you take to become a professional photographer?
I started working in television straight after finishing high school. I always shot stills part time, shooting mainly headshots, product shots and landscapes. After 22 years in the TV industry I set up my own company Camlight Productions. Camlight specialises in photography, cinematography and lighting.
How did you get involved in dance photography?
I was lucky enough to get a job as Lois Greenfield’s photographic technical manager in late 2003 when she started working with ADT on the show Held. Through the season of Held I discovered that I had an eye for shooting dance and after the season had finished I continued to shoot ADT as well Expressions Dance Company in Brisbane as a number of independent
What do you like about working with dancers?
I love that dancers are so flexible and responsive. They bring a unique physically to each shoot. When I ask a dancer to move in a certain way or manipulate their body and face to be both soft and tense they can do it easily. As artists they are wanting and willing to try new ideas which makes the process exciting and collaborative.
What are the challenges of dance photography?
Dance is typically structured to be viewed by an audience in 3D, if you like. A dance phrase starts at point A and finishes at point B with jumps, turns twists and many other elements thrown in along the way. The human eye frequently misses many parts of the phrase as the dancers can be moving so quickly. The challenge for me as a dance photographer is to give the audience a glimpse, a frozen moment if you like, of that dance phrase and, if I do my job correctly, that moment will capture the intent of the whole phrase.
What have been some of your favorite dance shoots?
Always tough to answer – I love shooting dance rehearsals as it seems to me that is documentary photography in its purest form. There is no set up - just me sitting in a rehearsal space trying to capture the feeling and energy in the room and translating that into a 2D medium that’s the photograph. I love many of my personal shoots in that it challenges me on a technical level but also puts the dancers into an environment in which they are normally not seen. Each shoot has its own unique challenges from shooting in my lounge room, which measured 3mx3m, to shooting on the streets but still lighting the dancers so it seems they were shot in a studio.
What is the craziest gig you have ever done?
That would have to be my Superhero series - not a dance shoot as such but a shoot that could only be made possible with unique skill set that dancers possess. We created two small comic books complete with stories, costumes, props the whole works. From my research I believe this may be the first true photographic comic in the world. Every thing is real in this project from the backdrop that was drawn by Adelaide artist Thom Buchanan and measured 12m x 3.5m to all the dancers costumes. We did not photoshop or cut and paste to create any of the jumps. Dancers jumped and one shot was taken. It was an amazing effort by everyone in front and behind the camera.
Tell me something about being a dance photographer that most people wouldn’t know or realise…
The amount of time you have to spend lying or kneeling on the floor to get the shot. It ruins a lot of clothes!
Top photo is from a shoot taken in Adelaide of Janessa Dufty. You can check out the rest of the shoot on Chris Herzfeld's Instagram account. Chris Herzfeld's photograph of Riannon McLean features on the cover of the Feb/Mar '17 edition of Dance Australia.
This article was first published in the October/November 2016 edition of Dance Australia. "Limelight" is a Q&A found on the last page of every issue of the magazine and features a different artist or person from a dance-related profession each issue.