Photographer Jeff Busby reflects on the genius Graeme Murphy, the costumes for Grand (designed by Akira Isogawa), and the two decades he spent capturing Sydney Dance Company.
“I was engaged to shoot Sydney Dance Company in black and white, while photographer Branco Gaica would shoot in colour. In the days before digital, it was very hard to do both. Graeme Murphy had a particular fondness for black and white: if you take the heat out of dance photography, all the colour and lights and, you’re just left with form. It immediately takes you into a dream world.
I’m a great lover of painting: mythological, medieval, pre-Raphaelite and gothic painting… all those Romantic works. And I loved Graeme Murphy’s extraordinary ability to mine mythological history. He also has a wonderful grasp of form and line; how to create vignettes: how to block and create groupings of people. It was just so cool to photograph. I really enjoyed taking what’s essentially transitory – what you see on stage – and freezing it. Photography somehow picks out a moment, but has a responsibility for implying what came before that moment and what comes after.
I’m in awe of Graeme’s Wagnerian capacity to create a total work of art onstage. He has a great ability to attract wonderful composers, lighting people, costume designers and all the other things that make up great performance art. The Grand costumes were particularly glorious. There was an afternoon I spent in Sydney, photographing the dancers wearing the costumes in a fashion style. We used the natural light coming into the studio in this haunted, beautiful way, and the dancers found themselves somewhere in between their dance characters and their natural ability to vogue and strike a pose.
The dancers were tall, they were short, they were curvy, they were willowy, and every one had character. Graeme had an unerring skill to find the most extraordinary talent. The personalities of the dancers – their individuality and their strength and grace – was never subsumed by his work.”
Akira Isogawa’s costumes for Sydney Dance Company are now on exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences until 30 June 2019. More info here.
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