Dance photographer Sorcha Augustine uses her craft to connect with dancers.
Sorcha Augustine considers herself less of a photographer and more of a dancer with a camera.
Growing up, she says she was always intrigued by movement and the human form. When she discovered dance, the art form spoke to her on an emotional and spiritual level, and she began capturing the art form from behind the lens.
For Augustine, a Ringling College of Art and Design graduate, photography isn’t just about the technical aspects, such as lighting, composition and crispness. Those things are important, of course, but her true passion comes from experiencing dance’s most emotional moments right alongside the performers.
We spoke with her about her process, working with Sarasota Contemporary Dance and capturing emotion on camera.
“WHEN I WAS 18, I decided I wanted to be a dance photographer. My mom’s coworker’s son went to Ringling, and she brought home a brochure. Flipping through it, I saw an image of Frank Atura photographing a ballet dancer. I thought it was fate, so I applied, and they let me in.
"I WAS WORKING as a framer and doing photography on my own when I met a ballet dancer who had just been photographed by Tony Eng, who is a ballroom photographer and photographer for ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ She gave me his information, and I ended up working for him for close to a year, traveling the country to do ballroom events. That really revived my interest in dance photography.
"WHEN I PHOTOGRAPH dancers, there’s a part of me that’s dancing with them and creating right along with them. It can be an emotional experience.
"I SEE MYSELF AS A DANCER with a camera. I don’t enjoy the technical aspects of photography. I much prefer experiencing that moment with the dancer. As I’ve been looking at the work I’ve done this summer, the most successful ones were those where you can feel a heightened emotional moment. The dancer is always in full extension or has their head thrown back and their eyes closed.
"IT'S ABOUT BEING IN THE MOMENT with the dancers. As a dance photographer, if you see the moment through your lens, you’ve missed it. It happens in a millisecond. So you have to be part of the experience.
"IT'S SPIRITUAL FOR ME. I’m working on a project right now called ‘Spirit In Dance.’ I talk to dancers about what dance means to them and their connection to it. Every single one of them has talked about some kind of connection to the divine. The project started out being totally technical, but it’s grown to be about storytelling, and the dancers have become archetypes or characters to illustrate their stories.
“WHEN I DANCE, I feel like I have a connection with everyone and everything. To me, that’s what life is — it’s movement and time. When you allow yourself to let go and move, it’s an experience that’s really authentic and connecting.
“WHEN I'M PHOTOGRAPHING, I keep in mind that I have to make the viewer care. It has to be something really special and spectacular, so I’m very discerning. I think that’s where the craft is for me. I want the viewer to feel the same excitement I experienced being present with the dancers. That’s what’s emotionally moving.”
Main photo by Jeffrey Paul Gunthart.