Katie Mesmerie Brunner and I have worked together for 3 years. We shot together for Art as Action (the unforgettable flour shoot), and for Iluminar Aerial (underwater!). I also photographed her and her fiancé sitting on a bed on 16th Street Mall in Denver, and of course I photographed her beautiful wedding in Estes Park. Katie and I are used to working under challenging conditions and I knew that once again we would be creating incredible images when she asked me to shoot her portfolio.
Katie is an aerial dancer; she uses lyras, silks and straps to perform at different venues around the country. Her latest, month-long series of performance in Florida convinced her that as a professional dancer, a solid portfolio of her work was necessary.
I knew that I needed to use a solid color backdrop and model the lights perfectly to showcase Katie’s incredible strength and grace. The challenge with aerial dancers is that they need a rigging point for their apparatus and enough space to move around. Using a large enough backdrop that covers the dancer and her apparatus is one of the greatest struggle that a photographer will have to deal with when working in studio. Katie and I reviewed several locations before deciding to try shooting in my studio. I have an unfinished basement with nine feet high ceilings that I use to shoot all the studio images in my portfolio. This basement is huge and has been a wonderful creative space for the past 4 years. This basement would serve as an aerial dance studio for the first time!
In order to photograph Katie safely, I placed a heavy-duty clamp on a weight-bearing beam (a steel I-beam that runs the length of the house). Then Katie used a carabiner to hang her apparatus. She used an anchor shaped device for her silks. We placed the backdrop (a 12 feet wide seamless) behind and under her and set up the strobes around. By the time the studio was set up, Katie only had a 7.5 feet clearance to work with, which is very low for aerial dance. Thanks to the seamless backdrop and Katie’s skills, I could then recreate a sense of height in post processing.
The advantage of shooting in my studio is that we can use any color backdrop, plug my strobes and take our time to create a solid aerial dance image. Katie quickly adapted to the lower height and we managed to get a series of images that showcase her incredible skills.