Oh wow. Seriously, that was all I could say when I opened up Jordan Matter’s absolutely gorgeous photography book Dancers Among Us.
It’s breathtaking. These are photos that celebrate life, that just burst from the page with utter, utter joy, and make you stop, take a moment, and stare, because there is just so much going on in these images.
The subjects in the photographs are dancers, human beings who are so well in tune with their bodies that the slightest turn of the hand conveys a range of emotion, and the most dramatic of poses appears natural, almost languid. These are people who understand the human form, and who can make their every movement express so much. The book is as much a celebration about the art of dance as it is of life itself. Some of the photographs appear to be almost Photoshopped — no way can a human rise that high into the air and look so relaxed — and yet, these photographs are all real, these people do have the ability to do that.
To my surprise, however, my favourite images were not the ones that featured incredible acrobatic feats. Rather, they were the subtler movements — still, no doubt, requiring amazing physicality, but not the type of pose that’ll make an audience immediately burst into applause. There are images where it seems like the dancer is literally levitating, but I prefer the ones that seem almost like a regular person can do it, until you realize that the level of grace or the precision of movement are extraordinary. Dancers are trained to tell stories with their bodies, and Matter’s photographs take a specific moment to tell the full story.
Matter situates his subjects in a variety of public spaces — meadows, subway trains, pedestrian crossings, even a cemetery. The photos can almost be of any of us, living our regular lives, yet the movement of these dancers brings the ordinary scene to vivid, striking, vibrant life. The utter silliness of an elderly man singing in the shower is juxtaposed, pages apart, with the image of a woman draped over a headstone, utterly limp with grief.
The book is divided into topics (love, grief, work, etc), and Matter includes some text with each section, relating incidents from his own life. I admit I skimmed over those parts, because to be honest, the images were just so compelling I wanted to see more. Still, they were lovely tributes to his family, and little glimpses into his personal life. I do plan to giving it a closer read when I look through this book again. For now, however, I couldn’t help but indulge in his photography.
These are all professional dancers, and if you are familiar with that world, you may appreciate it even more than I did. I was just blown away. This is a gorgeous, absolutely beautiful book. Words cannot do it justice.
Below are a few of my favourite images, all from the artist’s website.
Dancers Among Us | Chicago, Angela Dice and Demetrius McClendon
Dancers Among Us | San Francisco, Dudley Flores
Dancers Among Us | A Train, Lisa Cole
Dancers Among Us | 5th Avenue, Michael McBride and Ellenore Scott
To see more photos and learn about the artist, the book and the prints he’s selling for charity, check out his website: dancersamongus.com.
Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Full disclosure: I read about this book in their catalogue, loved the concept, and asked if they could send me a teaser booklet or a link to a website with photos, so that I may learn more about it, and write about it on my blog. Instead, they sent me a finished copy of the book. A lovely surprise, Thomas Allen Ltd, thank you.