Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Chris Nash is arguably the UK’s leading dance photographer. Even if haven’t heard of him if you ever go to see dance you would recognise his work from programmes and posters. With a background in fine art – he started as a sculptor who needed to photograph his sculptures and then became more interested in the photography – he found dancers from the nearby Laban Centre a rich source of inspiration and his interest in photographing dance and dancers and capturing movement developed into the principal focus of his work.
Dissatisfied with early experiences doing traditional dance photography at photocalls, with limited control over lighting and movement and occupying the space with other photographers capturing similar images, he began to develop dance photography into a finer art. Returning to Laban in search of new dancers to photograph serendipitously led to meeting Lea Anderson and her then-fledgling company The Cholmondleys and the Featherstonehaughs, herself with a fine art background, and his new collaborative approach flourished.
Chris Nash creates his images by working closely with choreographers and their dancers, costume and lighting designers to create a sense of what a new piece of work is aiming to achieve and likely to look like in performance. He then creates photographic images that capture light and movement and artistic intent without being photographs of the finished work ‘in performance’.
This exhibition in the Lowry’s Promenade Gallery, in association with the V&A, comprises 100 extraordinary photographs from the three decades of his dance photography and is remarkable in the range of images displayed. Some are ‘traditional’ captures of dancers in movement, others use heightened colour and special effects to create dynamic and powerful images of the physicality and ideas expressed through choreography. His fine art background is brought into play with references to surrealism, painting, poster art, meaning that this is a fascinating and varied exploration of thirty significant years of creative (mostly) British dance. The collection is like a who’s who of the key figures in contemporary dance of the period with many companies familiar to north-western audiences represented – Matthew Bourne, Richard Alston, Javier de Frutos, the Rambert, Phoenix Dance Company, Michael Clark, the Cholmondleys and the Featherstonehaughs, Henri Oguike, DV8, Motionhouse and many more.
If you are interested in photography or interested in dance the exhibition is well worth a visit as the work of Chris Nash represents the best of both.